A few years ago, I was introduced to the horrors of human trafficking through a movie I watched with my family that was inspired by true events. As soon as the movie had finished, I began looking for information about human trafficking. There was so much information that it immediately overwhelmed me, but I kept reading because I needed to know more. After I was done reading, I was frustrated and confused as to why I had heard very little about this business that makes roughly $99 billion every year worldwide on the sale and forced coercion of human beings.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or some type of commercial sexual act. Millions of men, women and children are trafficked throughout the world. The U.S. is one of the worst countries for human trafficking. Hundreds of thousands of people are brought into the U.S. each year to be sold, and over 50% of the active criminal trafficking cases in the U.S. involve only children. Women and children are disproportionally affected by human trafficking. They make up 71% of all victims of trafficking worldwide. Many factors including poverty, illiteracy, gender discrimination, low levels of education, regional conflicts and lack of job opportunities affect women and put them at a higher risk for trafficking. They fall victim to traffickers when they seek out opportunities for work and are unknowingly drawn into a job situation they cannot escape.
There is a common misconception that most people who are trafficked are thrown into a white van by a stranger and are never seen again. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. People who are trafficked often know, in some capacity, the person who takes them.
Traffickers connect with victims through social media and may promise them work and financial security. They groom the victims to trust them until they are able to convince them to meet with them. Oftentimes traffickers buy gifts for those that they are grooming in order to gain their trust. When the trafficker has successfully connected with the victims, they then pull them into their world slowly so that they are able to find something they can use to exploit or coerce them. Once the trafficker has found an angle to use against them, they use it as blackmail so that the victim goes with them willingly and obeys what they are told to do. The victim is usually never seen again. Traffickers use many coercive methods to keep control of their victims once they are in their possession. Some of these tactics include threats of violence to the individual or their family, false promises of financial security or withholding necessary documentation. Victims are often marked with a tattoo to indicate that they are “property” of the trafficker.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery, yet for some reason it’s not the headline story on the nightly news. It’s not accurately depicted in many movies. hen it is included, it’s usually just to provide a plot for the action to revolve around. There aren’t people protesting in the streets or starting movements to get the attention of lawmakers. It’s not a trendy issue, so it doesn’t sell. Because it’s not trendy, people don’t feel the need to discuss it. It’s too big and too real of a problem, so it’s easier to avoid it or to let someone else do the work.
Human trafficking has many faces, but it doesn’t matter which aspect you’re talking about as long as people are talking about it. The more something is kept in the dark, the easier it is to continue that action or practice. This is why it is so important to bring this topic to light. The more people that are educated on the dangers of human trafficking and how people fall victim to it the less likely people will be to fall victim to the same trap.
This is not a partisan issue. This is a human rights violation of the greatest kind and should be treated as such.