Human trafficking is often called modern day slavery because it is the human rights issue of our day. Because many people do not know what human trafficking is, nor can they even define the term, this speaks volumes about the hidden nature of these crimes.
Although drug trafficking is the #1 criminal activity in the world today, human trafficking is often viewed as the #2 criminal activity, as well as the fastest growing criminal activity in the world. Traffickers gain complete control and force their victims into labor, service, or the commercial sex trade. They maintain control though coercion, force, violence (brutal beatings, repeated rapes, threats of severe harm to the victim and often to their families), lies, deception, and psychological abuse and manipulation.
Human trafficking is a very lucrative industry. It is estimated that $150 billion are generated annually through human trafficking activities. Drugs can only be sold once, but human beings can be sold over and over again. In the case of a sex slave, that might be 15-20 or more times a day.
Victims of human trafficking are children, boys, girls, teenagers, men, and women. However, anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. The two most vulnerable populations of children that may be trafficked into sexual exploitation include:
• Runaways: One-third of runaways are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home, and approximately 90% of them eventually end up in commercial sex trade.
• Children on the fringes: These may be children from abusive homes; neglected children; latch key children; children with parents who may be working multiple jobs with little or no time to keep track of them; or they may just be children who, for whatever the reason, don’t fit in.
Human traffickers will use whatever method will work to trap their victims into doing what they want them to do. They will use force, fraud, and coercion to gain and to maintain control over their victims. Force involves rape, beatings, and confinement to control victims. Forceful violence is used especially during the early stages of victimization, known as the “seasoning process,” which is used to break victim’s resistance and to make them easier to control. Fraud often involves false offers that induce people into trafficking situations. Coercion is used to make a person believe that failure to do what they are told will result in serious harm, physical abuse, or physical restraint.
Human trafficking occurs in all states in the nation and all types of neighborhoods. It happens in any and all metropolitan areas, including small towns and suburban neighborhoods. Truck stops and along interstates are the more popular spots for trafficking where prostituted children are derogatorily called “lot lizards,” and they are sent from truck to truck to service the men.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. This number should be readily available for anyone who is interested in the fight against human trafficking. However, if you think someone is being trafficked, you should not attempt to rescue the person yourself. Instead, call the hotline, the FBI, or the local law enforcement agency and give them the details of the situation.
Public awareness and education is the key to ensure our community is aware of human trafficking crimes and how to identify victims. By educating our community of the horrors of human trafficking, we can better arm ourselves to prevent these terrible crimes.