You may have heard about “human trafficking” in the news, from social media, or maybe even from someone you know. But what is it exactly? How and where does it happen? How does someone become a victim? And who are the traffickers? How can you help? Although human trafficking is a complex issue with many layers, we hope to answer some questions you may have that can encourage you to want to learn more.
“Human trafficking” is a crime that involves forcing, defrauding (deceiving), or coercing (pressuring or threatening) someone to provide labor or commercial sexual acts. According to the International Labour Organization, there are currently an estimated 40.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide, including forced marriages. Exploiters profit off of the forced labor and forced sex of victims.
How Does Human Trafficking Happen?
A person may be offered an exciting job in a different country, only to find themselves arriving to the other country, having their passport taken, forced to work under dangerous conditions doing completely different work than expected, and told they have to pay off the debt of their travels, housing, and visa before they begin to earn any income. This is labor trafficking. In another scenario, a woman may be romanced by an attractive man who showers her with gifts, attention, and “love,” only to isolate her from her family and friends; begin to verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abuse her; and pressure her to provide sexual acts for money in order for them to make ends meet. This is sex trafficking.
What About Child Trafficking?
Globally, 1 in 4 victims of human trafficking are estimated to be children. “Child trafficking” involves selling a child for labor or sex. When children are involved, force, fraud, or coercion do not have to be proven for it to be considered trafficking, as children cannot consent to being abused. A family friend may offer to move a child from their remote village to the city to attend a good school, but upon arrival, the child may be abused for sex in a brothel. Or a child may be invited to run away from a group home by an older friend and taken care of by someone the older friend knows, only to be told they owe what has been provided to them and now have to go on the street or to a motel and provide sexual services for money that is paid to the trafficker.
What are the Psychological implications of human trafficking?
While victims of trafficking can be kidnapped, drugged, and forced into exploitation, many are psychologically groomed and manipulated into making them feel like they have chosen the life and circumstances they are in, not realizing they have been targeted because of their need or desire for food, money, clothing, housing, drugs, love, or friendship in order to be exploited.
Traffickers target the vulnerabilities of individuals, especially in their greatest time of need in order to profit off of them. How different could the outcome be if in crisis, the person met a safe person who wants to help them instead of someone who wants to make money off of them?
What About Labor Trafficking?
Labor trafficking can occur in industries like agriculture, food, domestic work, and entertainment, while sex trafficking can occur in pornography, massage businesses, and escort services on the street, in hotels, in homes, and on the internet.
Who becomes a human trafficker?
Traffickers can be part of organized crime networks, friends or family, gang members, intimate partners, employers, and business owners. But traffickers can also be victims of violence and abuse themselves, sometimes groomed to become exploiters by those close to them.
What can I do about Human Trafficking?
While all of this information is overwhelming and the problem is daunting, we as individuals and communities can be part of the solution by:
- Protecting ourselves and our loved ones by being safe people for them to seek help from when they are in unsafe situations
- Educating ourselves about the signs of trafficking and asking questions and offering support if we are seeing signs of someone who may be in unsafe situations
- Raising awareness about trafficking with our personal networks
- Educating ourselves about internet safety and monitoring the internet usage of the young ones in our lives
- Donating time, professional skills, or financial support to local organizations who are helping survivors of trafficking
- Learning about becoming a foster parent to children who need a safe home
- Advocating for someone to share about human trafficking at your child’s school, church, community group, business
- Reporting suspected trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888
ZOE International is committed to ending child trafficking through prevention, rescue, and restoration efforts throughout the world. To learn more, visit gozoe.org.