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Human trafficking (also known as modern day slavery) shares the basic idea from the slavery of 200 years ago. The same idea that one person’s life, freedom, and finances can be under the absolute control of another person. Thus, allowing them to be bought, sold, or used at the will of the owner.
Slavery was abolished 150 years ago, and yet there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in our history.
of all human trafficking victims are American
is the estimated revenue generated by human trafficking globally every year.
are estimated to be commercially sexually exploited in the U.S.
of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect.
sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.
who have been victims of human trafficking show suicidal tendencies.
"If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong."
All of these programs to assist those who have been commercially sexually exploited must be victim centered and grounded in trauma informed care. This will ensure that the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of each person are attended to in a holistic way. Having this as a key piece of the organizational structure and treatment framework will increase their ability to recognize, understand, and respond to the various effects and types of trauma, including complex trauma. Trauma informed care must be at the core of the organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma (including complex trauma).
A drop-in center/clinic is a program/service where people who are being sexually exploited can come to receive resources, emotional support and assistance. These programs and facilities are located near locations where sexually exploited children and adults can have easy access. These centers can be offered in permanent locations or in a mobile/changing location. These centers would provide each victim: personal safety, immediate medical and mental health needs, food, clothing, a support person, etc. Many/most human trafficking victims will leave or be rescued and then return to their trafficker multiple times. This center would act as “links in the chain” until the survivor ultimately becomes strong/tired enough to leave “the life” (i.e. their exploiter). With each interaction, the victim moves closer to accept the center’s offer of assistance to get out of “the life.” Every clinic should have a healthy and thriving human trafficking survivor on site to counsel/guide/mentor each victim; survivors have a much greater ability to connect/relate with the victim.
A safe (or emergency) house is a secured location where no one is allowed access without permission. It is a safe place where law enforcement, case workers or approved prescreened organizations can bring a human trafficking survivor 24/7. Attention will be placed on the survivors immediate needs (i.e. safety, medical care, food, sleep, etc.). In addition to addressing impacting issues like trauma bonding, addictions, fear, etc. The ultimate goal of a safe house is to prepare each survivor to be successful in a long term residential program. However, since human trafficking victims will often run from a shelter within 24-48 hours, planning guests to return multiple times should be accommodated in this program. Also, having healthy and a thriving human trafficking survivors on-site to counsel/guide/mentor each survivor would increase the potential for success and add tremendous value to the program.
A long term residential program/facility helps survivors develop a vison for a new healthy, happy and independent life. Participants are given opportunities to discover their purpose, establish identity, and are equipped & empowered to develop important life skills to succeed in their future. This program must be based on trust, accountability, and safety. Each survivor must have holistic care that involves their physical, emotional/ psychological, social and spiritual health. While here, survivors can develop skills in areas like communication, financial management, nutrition and physical fitness. Survivors can also be provided assistance to obtain their ID card, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, health insurance, etc. Every Residential Program should have a healthy and thriving human trafficking survivor on staff to help counsel/guide/mentor each resident in their journey towards health and independence.
Transitional programs assist human trafficking survivors, once they have experienced some healing from their trauma to a healthy level then a transitional plan to pursue independence can be implemented. A crucial step in helping a survivor move towards independence is finding affordable housing and strong employment. As these basic needs are met survivors can continue developing the skill sets they have been working on in their residential program: like computer skills, email, using public transportation, banking, pursue cash aid programs, create a resume, apply and pay for college, job interview, organizational& time management skills, etc. Follow up care is will also be vital through staying involved in support groups and/or ongoing counseling. The ultimate goal of this program is to help create a tremendous sense of confidence and assurance in their pursuit and successful arrival at becoming fully independent.
Many people refer to human trafficking as modern-day slavery. Although it is not the same as the transatlantic slave trade that flourished prior to the Civil War, there are many similarities in how victims are treated.
The definition comes from the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act (2000, 2003, 2005, 2008) which defines “severe forms of trafficking” as:
Note that a victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.
The definition of trafficking consists of three core elements:
Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of a lucrative job, stability, education, or a loving relationship. Victims can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. While they share the trait of vulnerability, victims have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented.
As defined under U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers. Foreign nationals who have paid significant recruitment and travel fees often become highly indebted to traffickers or other intermediaries. Traffickers control and manipulate these individuals by leveraging the non-portability of many work visas as well as the victims’ lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding.
Victims face many challenges in accessing help. Their traffickers may confiscate their identification documents and money. They may not speak English. They may not know where they are, because they have been moved frequently. They are often not allowed to communicate with family or friends. And they may have trouble trusting others, due to their traffickers’ manipulation and control tactics.
Traffickers lure and ensnare people into forced labor and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human traffickers recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims – often using force, threats, lies, or other psychological coercion. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, they may kidnap victims or use physical violence or substance abuse to control them.
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and even renaming victims. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their children’s safety.
Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims.
Traffickers can be lone individuals or extensive criminal networks. Pimps, gangs, family members, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, small business owners, and large factory owners have all been found guilty of human trafficking. Their common thread is a willingness to exploit other human beings for profit.
Migrant smuggling, while often undertaken in dangerous or degrading conditions, involves consent. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either never consented or if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive action of the traffickers.
Migrant smuggling ends with the migrants' arrival at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victim.
In smuggling cases profits are derived from the transportation of facilitation of the illegal entry or stay of a person in another country, while in trafficking cases profits are derived from exploitation.
The distinctions between smuggling and trafficking are often very subtle and sometimes they overlap. Identifying whether a case is one of human trafficking or migrant smuggling and related crimes can be very difficult for a number of reasons:
Some trafficked persons might start their journey by agreeing to be smuggled into a country illegally, but find themselves deceived, coerced or forced into an exploitative situation later in the process (by e.g. being forced to work for extraordinary low wages to pay for the transportation).
Traffickers may present an 'opportunity' that sounds more like smuggling to potential victims. They could be asked to pay a fee in common with other people who are smuggled. However, the intention of the trafficker from the outset is the exploitation of the victim. The 'fee' was part of the fraud and deception and a way to make a bit more money.
Smuggling may be the planned intention at the outset, but a 'too good to miss' opportunity to traffic people presents itself to the smugglers/traffickers at some point in the process.
Criminals may both smuggle and traffic people, employing the same routes and methods of transporting them. The relationship between these two crimes is often oversimplified and misunderstood; both are allowed to prosper and opportunities to combat both are missed. It is important to understand that the work of migrant smugglers often results in benefit for human traffickers. Smuggled migrants may be victimized by traffickers and have no guarantee that those who smuggle them are not in fact traffickers. In short, smuggled migrants are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked - combating trafficking in persons requires that migrant smuggling be addressed as a priority.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked? Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need. To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
If there appears to be imminent or immediate danger, call 911. Even if your local law enforcement has not yet received training on human trafficking, they are trained to deal with emergencies. If it is not an emergency situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888. This is the national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call takers are trained to assess and properly refer case reports and hotline staff are multi-lingual.
It depends. The trafficker can be prosecuted under federal or state anti-human trafficking statute, both of which treat human trafficking as a felony. Sometimes they are prosecuted under other related charges in addition to or instead of human trafficking. In some cases, the trafficker cannot be identified or located even though the victims are identified and provided services.
The buyers/users of prostituted adults and minors (sometimes known as johns) are sometimes arrested on charges of procuring, soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or related charges. National research demonstrates that individuals accused of providing commercial sexual activity are arrested at disproportionately higher rates than buyers.
Promoting prostitution of a minor is a Class C felony. Patronizing a minor who is being prostituted is a Class F felony.
If the act of prostitution involves adults, the john/buyer, and any third-party (e.g. a “pimp” or “madam”) are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The charge usually results in a fine and/or unsupervised probation. If the subject spends any time in jail prior to the court date, they’re usually sentenced to time served. The human trafficking charge, however, makes it much more serious for the pimp or madam as they would now be charged with the felony of human trafficking. There is not currently a felony charge for the Johns who engage in prostitution with a trafficked victim, unless that victim is a minor.
Sex trafficking, regardless of whether the victim is a minor or an adult, is a felony.
The human trafficking statutes state that anyone under the age of 18 is legally a victim of sex trafficking. The law concludes that a minor is not capable of consenting to commercial sexual activity, so a minor engaged in commercial sexual activity is a victim of sex trafficking. Thus, the terms “child prostitute” or “juvenile prostitution” are inaccurate and should instead be replaced with “minor victim of sex trafficking” or Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC).
No. No one deserves to be forced, defrauded or coerced into providing labor or commercial sex of any kind. Victims are protected under the law whether they are documented or undocumented.
Much of the ideas and information in these questions and answers were borrowed from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Polaris Project. The original document source may be found at the following locations:
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