While high-profile cases like Jeffrey Epstein may focus a brighter spotlight on the issue for a time, human trafficking is sadly an issue that has gone on for millennia. It is the ultimate expression of greed and exploitation. And it happens here in the U.S. way more than you may think.
It can be difficult identifying when trafficking is happening. But being able to do so can be one of the best first steps toward stopping it.
Read on to learn more about:
-What human trafficking is
-Why it happens
-How you can recognize it
-How to try and stop it from occurring
What Human Trafficking Is
At it’s most basic, human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is the illegal acquisition and transportation of human beings for the purposes of filling positions of servitude. These positions most often entail sexual acts or physical labor. The transportation aspect does not have to be across state lines or international in order for it to qualify as trafficking. Nor does the coercion into servitude need to involve violence.
The most dramatic situations may involve kidnapping, drugs, or luring children online. However, the process can be much quieter than that. The simple promise of safety and a roof over a victim’s head can be enough to seal the deal. In some cultures, poor families selling their children into servitude is a common practice. You might not expect such things to happen in the U.S., but it does, and at an alarming rate.
Why It Occurs
As appalling as it may sound, whenever an opportunity to make money or save money presents itself, there are people who will take it. In this case, traffickers acquire and sell people, and buyers get the services they want for relatively cheap. In addition to the perceived financial benefits, these players also tend to thrive on the feelings of power and strength they have over others.
When it comes to the victims, their backgrounds are often troubled, which made them vulnerable to a trafficker’s promises of money and care. It also usually leaves them with little sense of power or self-worth. Therefore, they may feel they have no choice. Or they may feel honor-bound to their new “employer” (or owner, rather) for taking them in and caring for them. Any and all of these possible factors can make a victim unable–or even unwilling–to stop the transaction from occurring.
How to Recognize Human Trafficking
Knowing when someone is a victim of human trafficking is not always easy. There are some victims that show more obvious signs, such as tattoos, overly sexualized clothing, a dazed/confused demeanor, or an oddly close or deferential relationship with their employer. Any child under the age of 18 who is selling sex is legally a trafficking victim.
But more often, there will be few to no physical signs. In these cases, you may need to infer an instance of trafficking by digging a little deeper and getting more details about a victim’s story and circumstances. A labor or sex trafficking victim will often be kept isolated from others, physically and/or emotionally. They could reveal instances of abuse or fear imposed by their employer. Or that employer could make clear efforts to limit others’ contact with their employee.
Ways to Try and Stop It
Human trafficking is a large, worldwide enterprise. So, stopping it entirely is a long-term project that will take continual effort on the part of legislators and dedicated anti-trafficking organizations. However, there are things that you may be able to do to help on a case-by-case basis.
First of all, be observant for the more obvious signs of trafficking. If you suspect someone of being a human trafficking victim, try and get them to open up and offer more corroborating evidence to back up your suspicions. Perform a little research on them or their employer via an online web search, or look into their background via a people search. Report your suspicions to the authorities, or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more information on how to proceed.
For more information on ways to try and keep your children and other vulnerable people safer, be sure to read more on the PeopleFinders blog.
Image attribution: Photo by ChameleonsEye – www.shutterstock.com