What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is the exploitation of another person for labor, domestic servitude or commercial sexual activity by force, fraud or coercion” (UNITAS). If a minor is involved with such exploitation, specifically sexual exploits, it is considered human trafficking automatically.
Who is often targeting for human trafficking?
Typically, the most vulnerable populations are targeted. This can include minors, members of the LGTBQ+ community, undocumented persons or immigrants, the homeless, drug addicts, victims of abuse and other marginalized groups. They can be forced or coerced into the system. Coercion is an important aspect of human trafficking, and why certain groups are targeted over others. Realize that traffickers can lure victims through means of fraud. It’s not always as forceful and dramatized as depicted in a number of Hollywood films.
Victims of human trafficking have very little social, legal or financial support. This could mean they are runaways, or involved with drugs, gangs, or prostitution just to stay afloat. This makes them more susceptible. These people can be overlooked in society, furthermore allowing the signs of human trafficking to continue unhindered.
To begin, let’s debunk a few myths and misconceptions.
What are the most common misconceptions about human trafficking?
Human trafficking and human smuggling is the same thing.
False. Human smuggling involves the illegal transport of humans across the border. Human trafficking is exploitation through labor, sex, etc. Human smuggling ca be used to initiate human trafficking, so it is considered more of a warning sign or external contributor.
Human trafficking doesn’t really occur in the United States.
Uh, false. Human trafficking is prevalent in every continent (except Antarctica because…duh), including every state in the United States. It is the second most prosperous industry, right behind illegal drug trade. It is estimated that about 40 million people are victims of sex trafficking. That’s about the entire population of the state of California. About 400,00 people are victims in the United States alone.
The states with the most human trafficking are Texas, California and New York. The top three worst cities in the U.S. for human trafficking are all in California; San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Human trafficking is basically prostitution.
False. Human trafficking relates to the ownership of a person as property. This involves forced labor without pay, sexual exploits, debt bondage and forced marriages. To ensure the victim cooperates, small payments, benefits or threats will be dealt.
Debt bondage is a perpetual, vicious cycle of debt repayment. The worker will be forced to work, under extremely poor working conditions, to repay a debt bestowed upon them, however the employer will tack on “interest” for expenses such as food, shelter and water. The work is eternal, and can be inherited, causing generational involvement. The cheap labor can reduce the cost of production for many companies, which is why it is utilized so often.
“In the United States, only ten states have legislation that directly addresses forced marriage” (“Learn: Forms of Modern Slavery”). A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage because both parties marrying, have to consent to the marriage. Forced marriages require only one party to consent, and it can be coerced or pressed through abuse, manipulation.
Prostitution is the engagement of sexual activity for payment. Sex trafficking can include prostitution, but not all prostitution can be labeled as sex trafficking. The deciphering factors are the presence of a third-party, such as a “pimp”, “boyfriend”, etc. and the magic word, coercion.
The purpose behind human trafficking is exploitation. When targeting the most vulnerable communities, the victims may not have the resources or ability to escape. The most concerning aspect of human trafficking is how prominent it is.
There are quite a few warning signs to make note of which can include:
Poor hygiene or malnourishment
Lack of ownership of possessions, physical identification documentation
Working long strenuous hours without breaks
Several different men visiting one hotel room every couple of hours.
Guests checking into a hotel with little to no luggage
If you, or someone you know, is involved in activities related to human trafficking, please utilize one of the communication platforms to seek immediate assistance.
Now that you’ve learned how to recognize signs of human trafficking, here’s what you can do to help!
- Shop ethically. Be mindful of employers who rely on cheap labor, minors and unsafe working conditions. You would be surprised how many of your favorite clothing retailers cater to “fast fashion”, and resort to cheap labor overseas and within the United States (that is a whole other topic for another time, but learn about the movement here!).
- Donate to a local organization that supports the mission. End Slavery Now offers a brilliant platform to narrow down the most sublime and inspiring organizations by country, city and state.
- Educate yourself beyond the information shared in this blog, then spread awareness on the issue. Share this blog, follow advocacy groups then advocate within your community! Push for anti-trafficking policies in your state, and demand budgets be used to fund programs and resources for survivors.
Human trafficking is one of the several causes we support at IMPACT.
We partner with Thistle Farms and Purpose Jewelry. Both organizations sell handmade products made by survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. We also partner with an organization called Sudara, and portions of the proceeds contribute to human trafficking prevention and the victims.
“Learn: Forms of Modern Slavery – Phases of Abolition.” End Slavery Now, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 2009, www.endslaverynow.org/learn.
UNITAS. “Learn About Human Trafficking & How To Fight It.” UNITAS, Karisma Hotels and Resorts , 2015, www.unitas.ngo/human-trafficking-101.
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