Human trafficking has become a massive social issue in America. Unaware of exactly what it is, a vast majority of citizens, even some law enforcement officials, are not educated on the subject. The lack of knowledge on the subject has been said to be the cause of why such an industry is flourishing. As human trafficking expands, government and law officials are exercising tactics on how to bring trafficking to a control and then to eventually eliminate modern day slavery. With more statistics and data regarding human trafficking, government and law enforcement officials may have a better opportunity at raising awareness, educating citizens, and preventing more individuals from becoming victims of trafficking.
Slavery, the state of being under the control of someone where a person is forced to work for another, has been incorporated into history for centuries. Originating originally in European countries, the movement of slaves began to spread throughout the globe. Slaves, who were of African descent, were held captive and taken away from their villages and forced into labor and harsh conditions.
Majority of families were separated as they parted ways onto the slave ships. Billions of slaves died over the course of the slave era due to cruel, inhumane treatment. The logic behind the idea of slavery was to have Africans work against their will for their slave masters profit. People of African descent are considered minority race and to the Caucasian population whites are the superior race.
Therefore, the whites treated them as such by taking away their freedom to perform tasks and bring in money for their masters.
Slavery continued for decades as slave masters were making massive profit off of the slaves’ labor of picking cotton, which was a cash crop at the time, and other crops. Slave masters also made revenue off of slaves by selling them. Usually bidders wanted the strongest and youngest out of the slaves being auctioned. Although slavery was abolished legally in 1865 by President Abraham Lincoln, slavery still exists to this day. Slavery has always been a part of history and history is known to repeat itself. Even though slavery is illegal, the human trafficking industry is a multi-billion dollar “dark” industry that denies the freedom of millions of humans across the world against their will.
Each year the industry makes large profit from the individuals who are trafficked. For this reason human trafficking has gotten worse over the years and has expanded all over the world. From the little girl being lured into prostitution at a grocery store, to the person found in a restaurant kitchen miles away from home, deprived of his passport and taken in against his will. All trafficking victims proportion one essential thing in common: The loss of essential freedom. Human trafficking in the United States can be reduced and possibly eliminated through education, government intervention, and awareness. Through these means, this illegal form of modern day slavery might finally be stopped.
Human trafficking, also called trafficking in persons, involves the illegal transport of individuals by force or deception for the purpose of labor, sexual exploitation, or activities in which others benefit financially. As of today, it is known as modern day slavery. Human trafficking is not just to be considered as slavery. Trafficking can range anywhere between prostitution, sexual exploitation, and forced labor. Human trafficking is divided into three categories of trafficking which are sex trafficking, removal of organs, and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking can be considered as exploitation of individuals against their will to perform in sexual acts or engage in prostitution. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking.
According to psychology today, one estimate claims that between 244,000 and 325,000 American youth are at risk for sexual exploitation, and about 200,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors occur each year in the United States (Estes & Weiner, 2001) (psychologytoday.com). Labor trafficking is upholding someone against their will to perform labor tasks for nothing in return, the same as slavery. Labor trafficking victims usually lack skills and are from poor countries. These victims fall into trafficking in hopes of a better life and fortune. Children are trafficked to become soldiers in parts of the African and Asian region. Adults are trafficked to participate in involuntarily labor and can too become soldiers while being trafficked. Though the removal of organs are a category for human trafficking, it is the least talked about. Trafficking of organs can happen three ways which are people are forced to donate an organ, an organ was removed without patient’s consent, and if the patient agrees to donate an organ for a price.
Recently, a number of African Americans have gone missing in various cities and states. Many of them have been found deceased with their organs removed. Unfortunately, minorities are being kidnapped and killed for their organs. Organs bring in an enormous profit to sellers who have organs that people are trying to receive. Wealthy individuals pay top dollar for organs out of the black market, to obtain a longer, healthier life. The black market is an underground economy where illegal trading of goods takes place. Some items that are sold on the black market are organs, illegal assault rifles, and drugs just to name a few.
The black market is a part of the “dark web” world. The dark web is an underground world of illegal activity via the internet and search engines. The dark web has been around for years. Backpage is an example of a search engine associated with the dark web. The website ran for years helping promote prostitution and sex trafficking. Women who were looking to work for sexual services could post adds that did not advertise sex but adds of advertising things such as massages or to meet up for dates. In reality, law enforcement knew backpage held a darker meaning behind it. It took government officials years to seize the website. Backpage no longer exists as of the year 2018. The dark web corresponds with helping the numbers increase for dark figure of crime.
Dark figure of crime are crimes that are committed but not reported to authorities. Human trafficking contributes to dark figure of crime because a large majority of survivors do not report that they have been trafficked. Immigrants, younger children and even adults do not report the crime in fear of deportation, law enforcement, and or of their traffickers themselves. Intentionally, victims do not ask for help. Majority of victims do not self-identify themselves as trafficking victims. Women and young girls may commonly identify as “willing” participants of sexual activities. Other factors such as victims not aware of their location and not being native to a certain language can hinder victims from reporting trafficking to authorities.
Few victims have stated that they do not report being a victim because they are usually treated like a criminal themselves. If survivors were to report their experience dark figure of crime numbers would possibly decrease and this would give law enforcement and government officials more awareness on what actually happens to victims. The dark web makes illegal action simpler to partake in. However, in more recent year’s law enforcement have gotten better and have begun cracking down on its use. Just like slavery, all of the categories serve one purpose: which is to generate money to the ring leaders.
In today’s society it is quite easy to get lured into being trafficked. Being lured into trafficking does not always mean one has to be kidnapped and held against will. Traffickers commonly recruit friends, family members of friends, and friends of victims that they already have under control. Recruiters of trafficking can be close or just simply already have some type of relationship with the people they recruit. Human traffickers are people of high status such as organizations, small businesses owners, agriculture leaders, factory owners and family operations such as adoption agencies. Traffickers normally use romantic relationships, online media, and social connections to gather more victims. Some traffickers have their victims recruit additional people for them.
Generally, girls whom are already involved in trafficking try to recruit other vulnerable girls by telling them the false luxuries of trafficking. Traffickers aim for at-risk youth, immigrants, and people who are homeless or in poverty. Human trafficking takes place in industries that demand cheap labor (lcms.org). This affects immigrants who are working for little to no pay already. Through these victims, traffickers use fraud, manipulation, and false hope to recruit. The youth victims are occasionally runaways from home seeking attention and love that they were not receiving from family or guardians. Runaways are typically living in shelters or on streets with no parental guidance near is easier access to predators.
Some victims, such as young girls, are manipulated into sexual exploitation. These are usually victims who are lacking parental guidance at home, is a runaway and or have been sexual abused previously. These young girls are lured in by older men who groom them by offering them anything they desire. Predators then starts showing victims the affection that they were initially lacking and makes them feel better about themselves. Gaining their trust, they manipulate girls into thinking they have obtained a relationship before they begin using them to engage in sexual activities with strangers for money. Trafficking predators use public areas to recruit victims such as the shopping mall, campuses, beaches and grocery stores to name a few.
Although kidnapping isn’t the only way to get trafficked it is the most popular. Many trafficking victims are taking and held against their will and do not have contact with friends and family. Youth victims are the most common to get kidnapped. Human trafficking does not have an age limit nor does it discriminate against race or ones’ social class. Human trafficking victim’s ages can start on average as young as twelve years old. Babies who are as young as one years old have also been reported trafficked. Women and children are among the most common groups of people to be trafficked. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children (dosomething.org). Women and children are commonly used for sexual exploitation and the sexual favors of their pimps or prostitution.
A social problem is a term used to describe problems with a particular area or group of people in the world. Social problems often involve problems that affect the real world. It also affects how people react to certain situations (en.wikiversity.org). Social problems are significant because they are shared, everyday problems that people face. Some examples would be rape, poverty, alcohol abuse, prostitution, unemployment, and economic inequality. These are factors that highly affect a population because they impact the population as a whole. Even if certain factors do not relate to multiple people the shared problems are still considered to be overall social problems. Human trafficking has become a social problem. Although it does not pertain to everybody within a population, it still affects the population. As human trafficking victim’s numbers rises, more people are going missing and the industry is continuing to illegally thrive. Not only are human trafficking numbers rising but so are prostitution, rape and early pregnancy numbers are as well due to the fact that women and youth girls are serving one leading purpose which is to engage in sex. Sexual exploitation survivors occasionally get STDs, HIV, are malnourished, and experience miscarriages from the sexual abuse.
Human trafficking takes place anywhere at any given time of the day. Since trafficking in persons have become such a profitable industry, businesses and corporations play a role in helping transport and exploit victims. Commercial airlines, hotels, motels, landlords, and travel services exploit victims ranging from housing victims to over charging them for services. Unfortunately, human trafficking has generally spread all over the globe from continent to continent becoming international. Countries such as Africa, Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea are among some of the top countries who rank at tier two and three in human trafficking records. China and Russia are the top two in the tier three category.
In these countries two forms of trafficking in persons commonly takes place which are sexual exploitation of women and young girls and labor trafficking normally of children. Women and young girls are transported to other areas or countries and sold to new traffickers in the area. According to The United States State Department report, “Chinese sex trafficking victims were reported on all of the inhabited continents” , ‘Traffickers recruited girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers, imposition of large travel fees, and threats of physical or financial harm, to obtain and maintain their service in prostitution.’ (theatlantic.com). As said by David Schinasi, International law enforcement coordination and collaboration with the implementation of special intelligence strategies like Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT), and other technological capabilities are necessary to destroy the organization from inside and arrest traffickers before they reach their destinations (media.com).
While Trafficking has spread worldwide it is considered to be both intra-regional and domestic. Countries who are involved in trafficking generally exchange between countries that are closer instead of countries and continents that are further away. The United States rank in the tier one category. However, heavily populated cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, all located in California, are the top cities that have high trafficking numbers. Other states such as Texas, New York, and Washington are some of the top states involved with trafficking in persons.
Some may say the trafficking industry is constantly thriving because police officers are not aware of what it is. Government and law officials have been working for years to clean up the trafficking industry and hopefully put an end to it all. Few departments across the United States have incorporated special training in detecting trafficking. Officers have started being trained to identify various signs of human trafficking. Few academies are requiring individuals to have trafficking-specific training in order to graduate and become an official officer. It is quite common to confuse prostitution with human trafficking. Therefore, officers arrest trafficking victims assuming their prostitutes instead of questioning the circumstances of the situation. A lot of victims are usually charged with crimes related to trafficking, generally prostitution.
While recusing victims and being traffickers to justice is the main goal, law enforcement and government officials must be attentive of other factors such as protecting victims after their trafficker has been released from jail and helping victims regroup their lives after being rescued. Meanwhile the industry continued to expand causing government officials to impose federal anti-trafficking laws. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law dealing with trafficking in persons. The act includes protection, prosecution, and prevention.
Then, the act was later reauthorized four times, most recent in 2013, becoming the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The Judicial system isn’t lenient on trafficking offenders nor the victims. Victim usually are charged with crimes that they were to commit while under the control of their pimp or trafficker. While actual offenders are charged with related crimes plus human trafficking related charges. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2015, more than 9 in 10 (93%) human-trafficking defendants were convicted; nearly all (99%) of the 769 convicted human-trafficking defendants in 2015 received a prison sentence. (bjs.gov).
Not all victims of human trafficking survive. For the ones that have survived, they live the rest of their lives in fear. This has negative impacts an individuals’ social life. Survivors become closed in and often stay to themselves after being rescued. Survivors suffer from numerous medical conditions also for example malnourishment, fear, trauma, and broken bones. Survivors experience countless psychological effects such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Survival victims sometimes blame themselves for the pain that they’ve endured. The physical and mental trauma one experiences after being trafficked is sometimes so crucial that survivors commit suicide.
Sexual exploitation victims can be said to be left with the most physiological and physical problems. Now, medical experts, doctors and nurses have to have trafficking-specific training just like law enforcement officials. Victims of sexual abuse are to be handled more sensibly than others. Victims lose their trust in people and are still traumatized by the trauma that they have experienced therefore, touching and examining them is more problematic. Examiners have to undergo certain techniques and demonstrate certain emotions when dealing with women and young girl victims. Understanding involvement and helping sexual exploitation victims will help in providing care and support that these survivors need.
By raising awareness, getting involved, and learning how to detect human trafficking can help prevent history from repeating itself. Government officials have made government based organizations mandate trafficking-special training which is one of many ways to help spread awareness. Awareness must start somewhere and there is no better place to start it where it matters most, law enforcement. Nevertheless, government and law enforcement officials cannot do it all by themselves. Citizens of communities have to come together as well to abolish this social issue. Youth and adult citizens both need to educate more on the subject of trafficking. With more education and awareness, more citizens can get involved and step in to recognizing signs.