Known as the “invisibles” or “modern-day slaves”, the human trafficking trade is the fastest growing criminal trade in the U.S. and one of the most profitable industries in the world. It is global in nature, existing throughout the world, with traffickers coercing men, women and children of all races and circumstances. Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims are trafficked every year of which 100,000 are reportedly children sold into the sex trade. The United States is estimated to have 200,000 slaves, living in our cities seemingly pursuing the American dream.
It is easy to understand why this trade is growing so rapidly if you look at our basic human nature and market conditions. Traffikers coerce their victims by promising them whatever they desire – be it, a trip to the US, education for their kids, an escape from their families. In return, the victims are placed into servitude as household domestics, escorts, or laborers at small businesses. Victims are the cheap labor needed to drive the market and the traffickers are the owners making all the payments and profits.
Sometimes the most innocent of situations can lead into this trade. One of the stories from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline tells how a girl, sixteen years old, met a man at her local mall who offered her a job at a restaurant. This seems like a plausible occurrence right? Well, it wasn’t. Instead of waiting tables and taking orders, she was forced to sell sex in a hotel room.
So, what can I do as an average American teen presumably untouched by this horrible slavery? After all, I am very aware of stranger dangers and I don’t live in a third world country. Well. there are many easy ways to make an impact. You can encourage local newspapers, magazines and television stations to focus on this topic. You can go and volunteer with organizations trying to impose stiffer penalties on traffikers. It’s even as easy as keeping an eye out in your everyday life – it exists all around us, open your eyes and ask yourself…what is wrong with this picture?
Maybe the best advice I can give is to look at this from our Catholic values perspective – where is my compassion for people in need and the courage to challenge unfair practices. What does it say about me as a human if I allow a ten year old girl to work in a brothel? And what about Maria, the maid next door, who never leaves the house and works till 10 every night, does she not deserve the same freedoms as I? Yes, it is probably easier to ignore or choose not to engage, but where does that leave our humanity? To really abolish these practices, we have to care and question and be accountable. Human trafficking is wrong and we as the future generation of America need to step up and make a difference. People are not for sale.