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Human Trafficking: Everything You Should Know

When most people think of human trafficking, they picture a violent scene where a female victim is at the mercy of an unknown male perpetrator who has sold her into sex slavery. However, this scenario isn’t as common as you may think.
© Provided by Swift Wellness

When you think of human trafficking, what comes to mind? Who do you see as the victim? Who do you see as the perpetrator? It’s likely what first comes to mind when you think of human trafficking isn’t what’s most common. As we approach January—which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month—it’s important we begin to think about what is human trafficking.

When most people think of human trafficking, they picture a violent scene where a female victim is at the mercy of an unknown male perpetrator who has sold her into sex slavery. However, this scenario isn’t as common as you may think. You may be able to picture of a more accurate scenario of human trafficking by knowing what exactly it is.

What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a scary term many of us try to stay away from. The term can be used broadly in the media, leaving many citizens to come up with their own definitions of what exactly it entails. Essentially, human trafficking is slavery. Some sources describe it as modern-day slavery. However, there’s little difference in slavery now versus earlier times. The concept and many of the actions are the same.

Human trafficking occurs when a person or group uses force, fraud, or coercion against another person or group in order to exploit them for commercial sex acts, labor, and other services. By definition, human trafficking is in no way limited to prostitution or other forced sex acts we typically think of when we hear the phrase. Human trafficking includes the exploitation of laborers, such as farmers and factory workers. As a result, it is quite common for men to be trafficked.

© Provided by Swift Wellness

Although human trafficking is not limited to commercial sex acts, that is usually the extension of trafficking women are most terrified of and think of for justifiable reasons. Sex slavery is often portrayed in popular tv shows like SVU, Criminal Minds, or all the other crime shows we obsess over. While this specific portrayal can be a good thing by bringing to this deadly international issue, it’s been sensationalized in the media, with a tendency to focus on the less common scenarios. The situations we see in cinema—where strangers kidnap women using weapons to force them into slavery—may not be the best portrayal for two reasons:

Most traffickers are not strangers. They know and have studied their victim. Traffickers are commonly intimate partners and family members, such as parents.

Because of the close nature between traffickers and their victims, oftentimes coercion is used. Coercion is easiest described as forceful persuasion. It is being convinced that you must do something to appease another person, even if that something causes you distress.

A common example of this is when the boyfriend—who you love—comes to you saying you are the only way for the both of you to get out of a negative financial situation. You agree immediately. Yet, you quickly learn that he has made arrangements for you to sleep with a stranger for money that he will keep. You may think you’d immediately say no. Unfortunately, that’s the thing about coercion. You end up doing something you’d never thought you’d do. In many cases, violence is introduced to further force the victim into sex slavery and to ensure that the perpetrator has control over them.

© Provided by Swift Wellness

Note: While I am using specific pronouns, please remember human trafficking is not restricted to one gender being a victim and the other being a perpetrator. Even in sex slavery, women can be perpetrators and men can be the victims. Another sadly common scenario is when a mother tells her underaged daughter or son that they need to sleep with a grown adult in order for the family to have enough money to pay for food.

Who Can Be Trafficked?

Human trafficking victims vary widely. In the United States, victims range from citizens, foreign citizens, undocumented immigrants, children, men, women, and elderly persons. Just about any other demographic you can think of has likely been victimized. However, there are some patterns you should know. Numerous communities are considered vulnerable, meaning that they are at higher risk of victimization. These communities include those in poverty, those with disabilities, natives, LGBTQ+, undocumented immigrants, those experiencing homelessness, and those who have run away, to name a few. Specifically, in regards to , young men and LGBTQ+ boys are extremely at risk. Basically, the most vulnerable populations for human trafficking belong to the communities already overlooked and underserved by the government, media, and society at-large.

How Do You Respond When Someone You Know Is A Survivor?

Because trafficking is more common than you may think, there is a chance that you know someone who has been victimized. There is a chance that they may never tell you what happened and that’s okay. If someone confides in you that they are a survivor, you may not know how to react. Most of us probably have never thought of how we would respond to a human trafficking survivor. Your response should be similar as to how you would respond to a person confessing any other type of trauma.

  1. Let them lead. They may want an interactive conversation or they may just want to vent.
  2. Never ask clarifying questions unless their safety is at risk.
  3. Do not emphasize your feelings. This means that although you may feel sadness or anger, it is not an appropriate time for you to confess your feelings, unless they ask. If they ask, reiterate that their feelings are your main concern.
  4. It may be okay to mention similar experiences. This varies greatly from survivor to survivor. As a sexual assault advocate and volunteer at transitional homes, I have witnessed almost every survivor finding comfort in sharing this life-changing experience with someone who could relate first-hand. Again, this is highly situational. Be sure to read their body language and listen to them before divulging such information.
  5. DO NOT JUDGE. Human trafficking is comparable to domestic violence in the sense that some people stay in the situation, even when given the opportunity to leave. There are many reasons why a person may stay. They may fear violence, need money, are scared of starting over, and countless other justifiable reasons. It is never your place to judge why they have stayed or how they ended up in the situation in the first place.
© Provided by Swift Wellness

What To Do If You Suspect Trafficking?

Human traffickers work hard to ensure that their crimes are concealed from everyday eyes. However, there are still multiple signs that can signal a person you know is being trafficked. These can include unexplained disappearance/isolation, seeming to be controlled by another person, a seemingly instant drastic change in behavior, and more found here.

If you feel you are at risk of human trafficking, be extremely vigilant. Document all communication between you and the suspected perpetrator(s). Call 911 if possible and needed. Precautionary measures can include letting others know your location and where you are going, carrying weapons for safety, having additional phone chargers, bringing water and snacks, and always having personal identification on you.

If you suspect human trafficking is happening in front of you, use your best judgment. It is okay (and usually suggested) not to directly intervene and call 911 instead. Take down the license plate number and all other identifying information you can to report as soon as possible. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24/7 for you, someone you may know, or to report a tip at 1-888-373-7888. You may also submit a tip online or email at [email protected]. There are many organizations dedicated to human trafficking to learn more, support, and find at. These include Love146, Free the Slaves, Children of the Night, and the Polaris Project.

© Provided by Swift Wellness

So how can you prevent human trafficking? The best way to stop human trafficking is understanding the definition, recognizing the signs, spreading awareness, and supporting organizations that work to end slavery.

It can be easy for many of us to distance ourselves from the harsh realities of the world. Some of us even intentionally do so as a coping mechanism. While distancing yourself from the subject of human trafficking is reasonable, understanding the basics can save lives. You will help protect yourself, those you love, and your community in return.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES REFERENCED:

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking

https://polarisproject.org/myths-facts-and-statistics/

https://humantraffickinghotline.org/

https://humantraffickinghotline.org/get-help

https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking 

 

EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original location.

ABOUT

PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.

 

EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.

ABOUT PBJ LEARNING

PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials online course is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.