What is human trafficking?
The Webster’s Dictionary defines it as an organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor).
“Simply stated, human trafficking is the exploitation of one’s vulnerabilities.”
[Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Documentary]
It has been said that human trafficking is the greatest social injustice our world has ever faced. We are passionate about raising awareness and educating our community, in order to trigger movement and action to see modern day slavery eradicated.
Some things everyone should know about human trafficking…..
We believe it is extremely important for people to be educated about the realities of human trafficking. However, we realize that the use of over-exaggerated statistics, or outdated facts do not depict a clear picture of such a complex issue. We have researched the work of many organizations and compared their facts to try and help shed light on the truth of trafficking. We want to do so without misusing facts which do not help bring about change, equip people to join the fight, or help organizations who are striving to end trafficking.
1) There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today
“Frankly, no one knows exactly how many people trafficking affects. Years ago, it was estimated that 27 million people were enslaved. In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that 20.9 million were enslaved. But these are estimates – not facts. Trafficking is an illegal underground issue; it is incredibly complex and under-reported. For these reasons, it is difficult to measure, though more research is desperately needed. We know the problem is real. We know the problem is big. And behind every disputable estimate is a real person that cannot be dismissed.” [Love146]
2) The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $150 billion. [Not For Sale Campaign] *keep in mind this statistic was $32 billion at the start of 2014
3) An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. These numbers DO NOT reflect the amount of individuals that are victims of domestic trafficking (trafficked within our borders) [U.S. Department of State]
4) Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minorsn (under the age of 18). [U.S. Department of State]
5) The average age a person enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 years old. [U.S. Department of Justice]
6) The U.S. is the 2nd highest destination in the world for trafficked women, the majority used for sexual exploitation [Fox News Report]
7) Second only to drug trafficking, human trafficking (both forced labor & sex trafficking) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. [U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services]
8) Over 40% of traffickers/pimps are women [The A21 Campaign]
9) Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic. [U.S. Department of State]
Where does sex trafficking happen?
Prostitution: there is a misconception that women in the sex industry are there by choice. The truth is the vast majority of prostitutes are controlled by a pimp/trafficker.
Studies estimate that as many as 98% of prostituted women are controlled by pimps. Traffickers lure victims into prostitution by preying on their vulnerabilities, coercing and luring them in with empty promises of love and safety, and isolating them from all that is familiar and secure.
Many studies show that as high as 98% of prostituted women were sexually abused as children, leaving them as an easy target and “conditioned” to sexual exploitation
78% report being raped an average of 33 times a year by customers.*
73% report being physically assaulted by customers, with 83% of these being assaulted with a weapon.*
75% in escort prostitution had attempted suicide
[Melissa Farley, founding director of Prostitution Research and Education]
Online: sites such as Craigslist and BackPage have made buying and selling sex an easy online transaction.
“I was first forced into prostitution when I was 11 years old by a 28-year-old man. I am not an exception. The man who trafficked me sold so many girls my age, his house was called “Daddy Day Care.” All day, other girls and I sat with our laptops, posting pictures and answering ads on Craigslist. He made $1,500 a night selling my body, dragging me to Los Angeles, Houston, Little Rock — and one trip to Las Vegas in the trunk of a car. I am 17 now, and my childhood memories aren’t of my family, going to middle school, or dancing at the prom. They are of making my own arrangements on Craigslist to be sold for sex, and answering as many ads as possible for fear of beatings and ice water baths.”
[An Open Letter from survivor to Craigslist]
Residential Brothels: they can exist in the suburbs or cities and seemingly look like normal homes, apartments, or trailers.
After being brought into the U.S. from Nicaragua by two controllers, a young woman was kept in an apartment building and forced to provide commercial sex against her will. The men would come to the street corner outside the apartment and call a phone number. One of the controllers would let the man in and take the money. Once, a young man visited the apartment and she told him her story – which she was unable to leave or call for help. The young man reported the situation anonymously to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.*
*Based on calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. [Polaris Project]
Massage Parlors: businesses are many times a front for illegal activity.
“We worked on a case of multiple fake massage businesses that were raided by the federal authorities. The women were often offered legal jobs, but then were forced into prostitution. Most of the women did not go outdoors for weeks at a time. Several were threatened with gang violence, and others were threatened with harm to their family members if they tried to leave. Some women were in debt bondage, and most had some type of sexual violence or coercion from customers frequenting the brothels. All of them wanted to escape.”
[Bradley Myles, Executive Director and CEO, Polaris Project]
Strip Clubs: we often view the girls within these establishments as willing participants in the sex industry, however many times that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A young woman came to the U.S. from Japan shortly before her eighteenth birthday. She had been promised a job as a lifeguard in Vermont, and instead was brought to New Mexico and forced to strip at a night club. One night, she met a young man at the club, and she pleaded for help in leaving. She felt as if she no longer could take the sexual abuse inflicted upon her by her controllers. The controllers confiscated all of her wages that she earned working 14 hours a day, and would not let her leave the premises. The young man called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and the information was reported to a local trafficking task force who opened an investigation.
*Based on a call received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. [Polaris Project]
Truck Stops: offer many destinations around our country for traffickers to exploit their victims and quickly move them on to another, with every changing clients this is a typical way sex trafficking occurs.
Late one night, a trucker pulled over at a truck stop near the highway. The driver observed a man with a young girl who appeared to be around 13 years old, approach several trucks. One of the other truckers told him that the man was offering to sell the young girl for commercial sex. He had frequently seen them at the truck stop in the past. The driver contacted the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), who reported the information to a federal task force.
*Based on a call received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Details have been changed to protect confidentiality. [Polaris Project]
Who are the victims?
Runaways, the poor, and those from marginalized groups are the most vulnerable. Yet any gender, any race, any background, ANYONE can become a victim of trafficking. It is estimated that a runaway girl will be approached by a pimp within the first 48 hours of being out on the streets. However, it is just as common that traffickers or pimps will “recruit,” meet, and befriend their victims on social media sites (such as FaceBook, Instagram, & kik), at school, or a local mall.
What are the flags that someone maybe a trafficking victim?
~person cannot come & go as they wish
~under age providing sexual services
~is fearful, submissive, or nervous; shows signs of distress around law enforcement ~avoids eye contact
~lacks health care/malnourished
~shows signs of abuse (physical or sexual), physical restraint, torture
~has little to no personal possessions
~has no money, bank account, or proper identification
~lack of knowledge if their whereabouts
~unaware of the date, current address, or phone number
~under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
~works excessively long and/or unusual hours
~unusual security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras)
~poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
~is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
~has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story