What is Human Trafficking?
As defined by the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, and/or the receipt of persons. These acts are carried out through use of physical assault, sexual assault, confinement, threats of harm, debt bondage, psychological manipulation, confiscation of documents, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power, and abuse of vulnerability. When a minor is involved in commercial sex trafficking the question of consent is irrelevant and no proof of assault, coercion, etc is needed.
Human Trafficking Statistics
- The International Labor Organization estimates it is $150 billion business worldwide
- 40.3 million victims worldwide
- Estimated 300,000 children are at risk of being exploited and trafficked in the United States alone
- 71% of victims are female
- 25% of victims are children
- Average age of recruitment for girls is 12-13 years
- The youth are at highest risk- this includes the homeless, runaways, ethnic minorities, unaccompanied foreign nationals, and rural youth
Victims of human trafficking often do not see themselves as a victim and may refuse help when offered. They may even express loyalty and affection toward their trafficker, which is a result of trauma bonding. Many of them do not realize what has been done to them is illegal. Survivors usually have substance abuse problems and a history of sexual abuse or other trauma prior to becoming a human trafficking victim. The most common causes of death of these victims are homicide, suicide, drug overdose, and HIV.
Who are the traffickers?
72% of human traffickers are male and 28% are female. More than 50% of the time they are a stranger to the victim. Traffickers may operate independently or with partners ranging from a small criminal group to a large-scale organized criminal network. These traffickers can be anyone from a business owner to government authorities. These traffickers prey on the vulnerable and create a bond of dependency with their victims. They use threats, drugs, violence, and psychological manipulation in order to control their victims by forcing a bond of loyalty forged from fear.
How do traffickers make contact with potential victims?
Many traffickers begin contacting potential victims via social media or through conversation in social settings. A majority recruit their victims through a tactic known as “Boy-friending”, in which the trafficker plays the role of a boyfriend or father figure in a young girl’s life and showers her with gifts and affection. The goal of this tactic is to gain her trust by convincing the victim she is in love; this ultimately isolates the victim from family and friends, making the victim dependent on the trafficker for all of her needs and attention.
Common Signs of a Victim Caught in Trafficking
- Hanging out with older people or an older boyfriend/girlfriend
- Receiving unexplained or expensive gifts
- Multiple mobile phones or fear of losing contact via mobile phone
- Changes in dress or behavior
- New tattoos (particularly someone else’s name)
- Not attending school or other activities
- Untreated medical problems
- Going to unusual locations to meet friends
- Getting in/out of cars driven by unknown adults
- Intimidated or fearful of certain people or situations
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Unable to speak for themselves
- Not in control of their money or ID documents
- Unaware of what city or state they are in
- Drug and alcohol abuse
When you think of human trafficking most immediately think of sex trafficking, but labor trafficking - forcing someone to work through fraud, coercion, or abuse - is just as common. The International Labour Organization estimates that 24.9 million people are trapped in forced labor globally.
If you look closely into the supply chains of the products we buy, clothing we wear, and food we eat, you’ll find people in unsafe working conditions who don’t have a choice whether or not they can leave their employers. Learning about this may feel overwhelming, like nothing you can do will ever change anything, but that’s simply not true. January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and if we all do our part we can make a difference.
We start by raising awareness and here are 6 ways that you can raise awareness.
1. Wear Blue
Wear blue today and start a conversation about why you are passionate about ending modern-day slavery. Post a photo wearing blue and use #WearBlueDay to get the conversation started.
2. Earn Your Training Certificate with O.U.R.
Learn the signs of human trafficking by taking O.U.R.'s free online training, complete with quizzes, training videos, and extra resources at https://ourrescue.org/training
3. Save the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888. Take a minute to save it in your phone, then encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can also encourage your close family and friends to learn how to report a tip by calling, texting, or filling out the online form: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/
4. Share a blog post on social media.
In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, share an informative blog post that has inspired you to make a difference on your social media accounts. Some great accounts to follow are @ourdaughtersint, @ourrescue, @michelleforgood and @livinginliberty
5. Shop Ethically Made Goods
By supporting and shopping with ethically made brands, these businesses can continue to support women that have been exploited and get them on the path to holistic restoration and sustainable freedom. Vote with your dollars and create demand for ethical products. It’s Business 101 — if demand increases, supply increases along with it. Alternatively, if you decrease demand (ie stop buying slave-made goods), the supply will decrease too. Brands like Elegantees and Starfish Project not only refuse to use forced labor, but go above and beyond by playing a part in the fight to end modern day slavery.
Some brands fighting modern day slavery:
- Starfish Project
- The Tote Project
- UNCVRD Jewelry
- Purpose Jewelry
- Thistle Farms
Fight trafficking by donating to organizations like Operation Underground Railroad, Our Daughters International and local organizations like Living in Liberty, located in the Pittsburgh, PA area. These organizations exist to bring an end to human trafficking and bring women & children into safety.
Sources: Living in Liberty, O.U.R. and MIchelle for Good