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Sex Trafficking

As one of the fastest growing industries in the world, modern day slave trade is estimated to enslave 30 million individuals today. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second- largest criminal industry in the world.” Combating this $32 billion-dollar-a-year industry takes enormous effort as well as a large framework of committed abolitionists. Slavery is wrapped up in almost every industry’s supply chain, tainting the food we eat, the clothes we buy and the electronics we love.” Sex trafficking is a consumer driven industry based on the principles of supply and demand. Elements of human trafficking can be identified whenever the means of force, fraud, or coercion induce a person to perform commercial sex acts, or labor or services. Trafficking can occur in legal and legitimate business settings as well as underground markets. Polarisproject.org, provides a list of definitions that you may find helpful to further explain force, fraud or coercion:

Force

Fraud

Coercion

In other words, The definition of trafficking has 3 main components:

Vulnerable people and communities are targeted by recruiters and traffickers; sometimes entire villages, reservations and low income areas with few economic opportunities are targeted as ideal laborers, who do not have other options. Often, they will not immediately realize that the small loan they accepted will never be paid off due to the high interest rate charged by the lender. Many try to pay these loans by agreeing to prostituting themselves or possibly even a family member/child. Identifying these regions and people is critical to stemming the tide of human trafficking. It is important to realize, that even though poverty can be a factor in human trafficking because it is often an indicator of vulnerability, poverty alone is not a single causal factor of a human trafficking victim. Trafficking victims can come from a range of income levels.

Let’s address some common myths of trafficking; True or False?

Women and children are the only persons trafficked.

False: Women, men, children, foreign nationals or US citizens can all be vulnerable to human trafficking.

All victims are kidnapped and/or thrown into a van; There must be elements of physical restraint, physical force, or physical bondage when identifying a human trafficking situation.

False: The legal definition of trafficking does not require physical restraint, bodily harm, or physical force. Psychological means of control, such as threats, fraud, or abuse of the legal process, are sufficient elements of the crime.

You can go to another country and simply buy women and children out of the industry and this will end slavery.

False: There must be another source of income/job provided and/or skill offered. Human trafficking is a supply and demand driven industry. Where one woman is released, another is in line to fill that vacancy. In this industry, humans are viewed as disposable commodities. In other words, you not only create the demand for another women, man or child to fill that vacancy but you have to understand that these victim’s have many invisible bondage factors at work in their lives. Such as, debt bondage, no sense of self-worth left after having their spirits broken down by traffickers, pimps ect., addictions, disease, mental illness, PTSD and cultural family obligations. They may even be shunned from their families and not be allowed to return, thus having no other support system than the false/distorted reality created by their trafficker and/or pimp.

Human trafficking must includes moving from one country to another or across state lines.

False: ‘The legal definition of trafficking, as defined under the federal trafficking statutes, does not require transportation. Although transportation may be involved as a control mechanism to keep victims in unfamiliar places, it is not a required element of the trafficking definition. Human trafficking is not synonymous with forced migration or smuggling. Instead, human trafficking is more accurately characterized as exploitation, a form of involuntary servitude, or “compelled service” where an individual’s will is overborne through force, fraud, or coercion (Polarisproject.org).’

Victims of human trafficking will self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help.

False: ‘Victims of human trafficking often do not immediately seek help or self-identify as victims of a crime due to a variety of factors, including lack of trust, self-blame, or specific instructions by the traffickers regarding how to behave when talking to law enforcement or social services. It is important to avoid making a snap judgment about who is or who is not a trafficking victim based on first encounters. Trust often takes time to develop. Continued trust- building and patient interviewing is often required to get to the whole story and uncover the full experience of what a victim has gone through (polarisproject.org).’

You may be reading this and saying to yourself, “This does not happen in my community.” Unfortunately, there is not a community, untouched by human trafficking. Click link for understanding what human trafficking looks like in the United States: polarisproject.org.

You can also click this link to help you recognize the signs and indicators that someone has been trafficked: polarisproject.org. This is not an exhaustive list, but represents a selection of possible indicators.

When a community is uneducated and/or unaware of this issue and government and community institutions/programs are not trained to respond or recognize the signs of human trafficking, when laws are ineffective or non-existent in addressing this crime, when law enforcement does not investigate or prosecute this crime and communities do not implement healing, recovery and/or safety programs for victims, human traffickers perceive little to no risk in continuing their criminal operations. Many economies thrive because of the sex industry. The sex tourism industry directly contributes to the economy of a state or nation. If an individual is willing to buy commercial sex, it creates a market and thus it is profitable for a trafficker to exploit women, men and children. Left unexposed or challenged, sex trafficking will continue to flourish. We understand that all of this information may lead you to wonder how you can make a difference. Do not be overwhelmed. There are many ways to get involved and everyone is needed.

- Get Educated
- Raise Awareness/Advocacy Speaking
Click here to order free education materials
- Take Action: Ask your state legislators how they're working to stop sex trafficking in your state. If they're not, offer to provide information on what they can do. Click here for ideas on how you personally can help fight human trafficking.