Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Updated: Jan 31
Human trafficking is often referred to as “modern day slavery”, and it is a substantial money maker. It can come in the form of sex and labor trafficking, as well as debt bondage. The trafficking industry is worth at least 150 billion dollars, with 99 billion dollars coming from sex trafficking and 51 billion dollars from labor trafficking. According to the International Labor Organization, 40.3 million people were victims of trafficking in 2016, with children accounting for 25% of trafficked persons. The United Nations defines human trafficking as follows:
“Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercions, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of the position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or rem removal of organs”
Trafficking victims, from a demographic standpoint, can vary widely. However, poor, uneducated women are disproportionately affected by this epidemic. As previously mentioned, children are also widely used, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, where 62,077 kids were involved in illegal labor practices in 2016. Trafficking victims in the US often come from abusive and neglectful homes, homes with substance abuse issues, homes in poverty, run away, have difficulty in the school setting, and have mental health concerns.
The United States has a significant trafficking problem alone. 14-17,000 people are trafficked into the US every year. Within the country, ‘street youths’ are particularly vulnerable; they are those who either lack supervision, have ran away from home, or have been thrust into homelessness. One out of every three teens will be lured into sex exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home, translating to about 150,000 youths every year. It is common for traffickers, or “pimps”, to stake out location’s teenagers will often be found; malls, bus stops, arcades, movie theaters, etc. Proximity to truck stops is also a big indicator, as truckers are a demographic that are willing to purchase sex and are hard to catch since they are constantly moving. Three types of traffickers have been observed: the victim’s family, gangs, and “pimps”. Pimps can come in two forms; the gorilla pimp uses force, beatings, and potentially drugs on their victims. ‘Finesse’ pimps operate a little differently; they romance the victim, make them feel valued, buy them nice things, and convince them that sex with others is vital to keeping the relationship going.
The problem of trafficking warrants international attention for several reasons; primarily, the trauma it places on its victims. Many trafficked individuals experience physical and sexual abuse. Often, basic needs of food and shelter are not being met, and wages are not being paid. Upon escaping the trafficking situation, victims are often ostracized within their communities and left to start over with little to no resources. Given that all of these are risk factors for criminal activity, it is likely that without proper intervention, these individuals will either engage in offending behaviors or continue to be victimized due to their vulnerable position.
In the same vein, the offenders involved in the trafficking industry are likely to have high recidivism rates for criminal activity. If the problem is not addressed and consequences are not put in place, traffickers will continue to traffic vulnerable people. Additionally, as trafficking is heavily linked to organized crime and drug trafficking, these crimes will also continue and perhaps increase if human trafficking is not addressed.
Scholars identify the following recommendations by activists for those who have escaped trafficking situations: temporary housing, relocation assistance, transportation, legal advice, physical protection, mental health counseling, and assistance with immigration/citizenship issues. There are also preventative approaches: programs that prevent abuse and neglect and support those who have experienced it, programs that prevent poverty and support those in poverty, programs that support children in foster care, programs that prevent dropping out of school and support children that are struggling academically, programs that prevent bullying and support those who have been bullied, programs that assist runaways, and affordable access to mental health services.
As important as prevention is, it is equally important to be aware of the signs. The following are all considered red flags: the person cannot come and go as they please, is paid very little or only through tips, works unusual hours, owes a large debt and is unable to pay, is subject to high security measures when coming to and leaving work, shows unusually high anxiety or nervousness (particularly when law enforcement is mentioned), appears malnourished, shows signs of physical abuse, has few personal possessions, is not in control of their own finances, does not have their own identification, is often spoken for by a third party, is unable to clarify where they are staying, and shows a lack of knowledge about their current location.
If you or someone you know is a trafficking victim, call
your local police department, sheriff's office or one of the hotlines below.
National Human Trafficking Hotline Call for help or to report a tip 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1 (888) 373-7888 or Text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE)
Hotline / Emergency Resources
If you or someone you know needs help, call our hotline number:
Wisconsin Hotline: (920) 333-1701
Belles, N. (2015). In our backyard: Human trafficking in America and what we can do to stop it. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Karmen, A. (2016). Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Middleton, J., & McDonald, A. (2019, February 01). Creating Sanctuary: Trauma-Informed Change for Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-63192-9_35-1
Nodzenski, M., Kiss, L., Pocock, N. S., Stoecki, H., Zimmerman, C., & Buller, A. M. mental health of young trafficking survivors in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213419302467
Smith, H. A. (2014). Walking prey: How Americas youth are vulnerable to sex slavery. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/aht
Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/human-trafficking/overview