[Content Note: Because this post deals with a very difficult topic, specifically human trafficking, I would like to take this moment to make it clear that if this is potentially upsetting for you, and you need to give this post a miss, absolutely do so. Alternatively, if you choose to continue reading beyond this point, and it brings up difficult feelings for you, I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can visit their website here. For readers outside the U.S., this is a link to similar resources in your area. However, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, I encourage you to call 911, or its’ equivalent in your area. If you know or suspect someone is in a trafficking situation, call 1-866-347-2423. You can also text HELP or INFO to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at BEFREE (233733).]
When people think of human trafficking, often what comes up are stories in the news about kids getting kidnapped, people getting smuggled into a country, or people accepting initial job offers overseas only to find out it was a bait-and-switch for something else. While these instances happen, according to the Department of Homeland Security, victims don’t always have to be moved or relocated in order for it to count as a crime.
But what about times where people get smuggled into a country? Human smuggling isn’t always human trafficking, because the people getting smuggled into a country consent to it. However, there are times where this turns into human trafficking, so the overlap can happen between the two. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines human trafficking as something that “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion in exchange for labor, services, or a commercial sex act,” according to a publication dated June 2020. Similarly, “causing someone under the age of 18 to engage in a commercial sex act, regardless of using force, fraud, or coercion is human trafficking under U.S. law. Human traffickers use various forms of force, fraud, and coercion to control and exploit victims. These forms include imposing of debt, fraudulent employment opportunities, false promises of love or a better life, psychological coercion, and violence or threats of violence.”
Who are the victims? According to the DHS, anyone can be a victim, regardless of gender identity, assigned gender, age, demographics, immigration status, socioeconomic status, racial identity, religious affiliation, ethnicity, or nationality. Often, victims may not come forward or seek help, because they may fear law enforcement, retaliation from their abusers, may not speak or understand the languages, or may not realize that what’s happening to them is a crime.
Human traffickers will sometimes seek out victims on the internet, and through social media. They may pretend to be friends, or pretend to share job opportunities. They may also target children this way, so if anyone knows a kid, or has one in their life, be aware of it. Knowledge is power, and while this talks about safety tips for kids, I feel like this is important information with valuable takeaways for all of us.
Just like any other abuser, the perpetrators will exploit their victims’ vulnerabilities after they learn them and promise them a better life or better circumstances. After they’ve hooked their victim, they’ll groom their victims into complying with their abusive demands. The perpetrators can be extremely dangerous, so if any of you find a victim in this type of situation, never, and I repeat, NEVER, confront them yourselves. Instead, call the authorities, who are far better equipped to deal with something like this than we are.
But what does a human trafficking situation look like? According to the website, this can look any number of different ways. For instance, is the person living in unsuitable, substandard, unstable, or dangerous living conditions? Does the person seem to be separated from their means of support? Does it seem like someone’s coached them on what to say if they’re asked if anything’s going on? However, not all of these show up in every human trafficking case, and the absence of these (and the others listed on the site) don’t always mean it isn’t happening.
But doesn’t this only happen in lesser developed countries? Surely it can’t happen here in the U.S. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. We often hear stories in the news about human trafficking happening in lesser developed countries, however, it isn’t just limited to these countries. The truth is that this happens everywhere, and can even happen in our own neighborhoods!
So what can we do to help? Great question! I’m so glad you asked. This website has some great ideas on where to start. One thing we can do today is to wear blue, like I’ll be doing. #WearBlueDay. To learn more about the Blue Campaign, visit the DHS website. Share it with your friends and loved ones. Human trafficking has no place in society, so let’s raise awareness, and do our part to end it.
Nobody deserves to live a life where they’re abused, mistreated, and in fear. It doesn’t matter what their immigration status, what their socioeconomic status, their gender identity, their nationality, their ethnicity, their racial identity, assigned gender is. Everyone deserves to live a life of freedom, safety, and without fear, and that includes you too.
Readers, let’s talk. Share what you took away from this, what you learned, or your plans for today to raise awareness.