Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What is Human Trafficking Anyway?

by Robin Sax

Upon hearing those words, many people assume that is not a crime that happens here in our country. Most people think human trafficking is synonymous with Thailand, Indonesia, and Russia. When asked what are the biggest crimes facing kids here today, most people say drugs. And why do people talk about drugs and alcohol so much when it comes to kids? The reason is simple—we have spent time educating society.

Adults and children of all ages know about drugs because there has been a conscientious effort to make sure people know. So that is where we must begin with human trafficking too. Adults and children need to learn what human trafficking is, how it happens, and perhaps most importantly recognize that human trafficking is not just a foreign problem…it is a problem that is happening here, right on our soil, and happening more and more. Where better to begin than going to the kids themselves.

To get a sense of how kids perceive this epidemic that effects THEM, I turned to my trusty network of Facebook friends and found a teenager who has her act together to get a sense of what she thinks about this phenomenon of human trafficking. And this is what Senior High School Cassie Nelson, said: “As a seventeen year old entering my senior year in a high school with over four thousand students, I constantly witness young girls dressing and acting as though they were prostitutes. From cut off shorts that hardly cover their underwear and see-through tank tops, to hosted events at houses called “pimps-ho’s” parties where everyone dresses in lingerie and pictures are posted online, it becomes almost impossible to watch girls and boys play make-believe of an enterprise that strikes every country, every day. One may sit back with a smirk upon his or her face and say that these men and women, boys and girls chose their lifestyle; however upon hearing the words human trafficking that smirk is immediately swept off and replaced with an open mouth of shock.

Human trafficking is not a new problem, nor is it a fad that will soon end, instead it is an issue that has existed for decades and will continue to grow and prosper as a result of being ignored each and every day. Due to being such an unsettling and upsetting issue, most individuals would prefer to get up and walk away rather than to sit and listen to what happens and how it can be prevented.

All, if not most high schools consist of a broad curriculum consisting of four core subjects, as well as numerous electives and advanced placement classes. In my three years of high school I believe the topic of human trafficking was only brought up once in health, a required course in the tenth grade, and never again. The topics of sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, adultery, and many more are discussed, but the topic of human trafficking never is. Unlike evolution and sex-ed, human trafficking is not a topic of debate or controversy. It is an issue sweeping all countries, and affecting thousands and even millions of girls, boys and their families.”

So with this perspective in mind, I took my new friend Cassie with me to see the screening of the “Playground Project” a documentary by Libby Spears that puts into perspective how this crime reeks havoc on young people’s lives. After we left Cassie said, “No one gets it, everyone needs to see this film.” And, while I agreed with her I also relayed to her the difficulties in getting our society to accept a film on this difficult issue of sex crimes, prostitution, and human trafficking. Our society is much more open to hear about drugs, gangs, and even killing but there is something that makes people queasy when it comes to sex crimes. But Cassie reminded me of the words of the producer Libby about why this film is so important, “Wherever drugs are sold people are sold too.” While this is a realization that many would prefer to process into short term memory and forget rather then encode and store in long term memory for constant retrieval both Cassie and I decided this is a lesson that must be repeatedly taught. So, together, we decided that we are going to do our part in our respective populations, circle of friends, regions or the country to educate people about this prolific problem.

So here is what we learned and what we want to share with you so that you begin to view the issue with eyes wide open and instead of with your head buried in the sand.

- Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: * Forcing victims into prostitution * Subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude * Compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography * Misleading victims into debt bondage.

- Human trafficking is big business. Although estimates vary, it is thought that about $7-9.5 billion is made every year from human trafficking.

- Worldwide, it is estimated that somewhere between 700,000 and four
million women, children and men are trafficked each year, and no region is unaffected.

- Despite an estimated prevalence of 100,000 to 150,000 slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available.

- Traffickers typically lure women and children with false promises of jobs, money, or security. They are promised jobs as waitresses, nannies, models, factory workers but once they accept “invite,” they suffer extreme physical and mental abuse, including rape, imprisonment, forced abortions, and physical brutality.

- As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

We are on a mission to educate society and make human trafficking something so understandable that it rolls off your tongue like “Just say no,” or the recognition of “Pink” as the color of breast cancer awareness. We hope that you will join us by spreading the word.


FleaStiff said...

So many euphemisms. Human Trafficking. White Slave Trade.

Many prostitutes willingly travel from city to city in the USA for economic reasons often uninfluenced by vice squad attentions. Sometimes when prostitutes have pimps they will be sent around to different cities. Is that really trafficking?

If countries clearly allow prostitution should we view the women involved as if they were WASPs from Bucks County? Should all these figures that are bandied about include people living in conditions that are barely out of the stone age? Thats like an animal rights organization complaining that termites are being eaten. Neither the termites nor the people eating them should be a concern in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Clearly you did not read this article and have no clue what you are talking about Fleastiff.

Mary O'Grady said...

We should all wake up and be aware of this horror. It happens all over the United States.
Here is a link to a Houston Chronicle feature about one of many trafficking rings that was broken up there:


And Fleastiff, you should be ashamed of yourself. These girls could be your sisters; these women could be your mother, or your aunts. There but for the grace of God and maybe some dumb luck goes the Fleastiff family.

Jan C, said...

Stiff, you either wish to provoke or are truely thoughtless. Sex for trade, whether the participants are willing or not, hurts everyone. It demeans us as humans, and debases our society as a whole for not seeing it for the abomination it really is.

Thank you, Robin, for writing about this.

Derri said...

Kudos for researching and writing on this topic, Robin. You're right-- everyone knows about drug trafficking, which is the #1 criminal activity in the world but most people know little or nothing about human trafficking (slavery) even though it is the #2 and fastest growing criminal activity on the planet.

This is in part, as you say, an awareness issue. It is also a crime that is more hidden and harder to uncover than drugs. Example: If a law enforcement officer pulls over a car with a kilo of heroin in the back seat, a crime has clearly been committed. If the same officer pulls over a car with three girls in the back seat--the driver can easily give a plausible reason they are there, the officer is unlikely to be trained in human trafficking and may not ask more questions and the girls are terrified, their lives and probably their families lives having been threatened. Maybe they don't even speak English.

Want to help? A good first step is to learn the red flags for identifying victims: www.notforsale.info

Not For Sale Campaign is a grass roots organization in which smart activists use their unique skills, passions and sphere of influence to work together to end slavery. Why not join the team? www.notforsalecampaign.org. Find the director for your region, and get in touch!

Derri Smith
State Director for TN

Michelle Says So said...

Great article. I just wrote something similar on my blog last week...check it out:

Sex Trafficking--Not Just an International Problem!


Jessie'sMomGlendene said...

My daughter JESSIE FOSTER is a human trafficking victim who has been missing over 3 years, since March 29, 2006. Is there anyone out there that can help us find her?
REWARD: $50,000 to the person who helps us find Jessie
WEBSITE: http://jessiefoster.ca
FORUM: http://findjessie.com
BLOG: http://jessiefoster.blogspot.com
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/MissingJessie
AMERICA'S MOST WANTED: http://www.amw.com/missing_persons/brief.cfm?id=60803
ABC NIGHTLINE: Hunting Humans on the Highways: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7582591
2009 TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2009/index.htm