A man with his head in his hands, with the word help written on the back of his hands. Text in the bottom right corner reads
Credit: Sarah Keck, 42Fifty

One of the most successful and biggest businesses in the world is human trafficking, which should raise a lot of concern regarding the people behind the scenes of it all. It is a very sensitive topic that many ignore or avoid talking about, but it is important that we start spreading awareness about the subject due to the illegal industry expanding and being at an all-time high in recent years. Currently, it is estimated that anywhere between 20 and 40 million people on an international level are involved with human trafficking, but that number could be higher since many cases go unnoticed. Over $100 billion is made from the industry alone.

The United States was ranked one of the world’s worst places for human trafficking in 2018, along with the Philippines and Mexico. It seems quite strange that the United States is in this ranking, since it is considered to be a first-world country along with strong laws and enforcement, but this just comes to show how prevalent and successful this business is in our very own country. There are many myths and misconceptions about human trafficking, and part of it is due to the fact that not many people are very familiar with the subject. It is not required to be covered in public education or public services around the nation, therefore, a lot of essential information about the topic is not widely known about.

Human trafficking is when a person has to involve sex acts, labor, or services against their will in commercials. This alone covers a very common misconception: Human trafficking is not just limited to sex services, but also can involve other forced services such as labor. Federal Law uses a model called “Action-Means-Purpose,” or AMP, in order to determine a human trafficking situation. The action part refers to how the victim was involved, and this may include inducement, recruitment, harboring, transportation, provident, and/or obtainment of a person. Methods to draw victims are the use of force, fraud, and coercion. Traffickers will use threats, deception, violence, debt bondage, and manipulation. Lastly, the ultimate purpose of the trafficking is for commercial sex, labor, or other services. Typically, a situation has to have at least one thing in each column in order for it to be considered a case of human trafficking. When a minor is involved in this horrid business, it is always considered human trafficking regardless of how they came about to be in their position. A minor cannot legally consent to this.

Human trafficking results in the exploitation and mistreatment the victims suffer. Human trafficking is a violation of human rights and endangers the lives of innocent victims. Many people associate human trafficking to be something more common in developing countries or people of low income, but the harsh reality is that this could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It is heartbreaking to see how ignored human trafficking is in this country. It rarely ever comes up in government affairs, despite how big of a problem it has become recently. Social media platforms have made young people more vulnerable to these situations as well. The U.S. government should take more firm control, funding, and action to help fight against sex trafficking.

There are age groups and demographics that statistically, are more prone to these situations. For example, women and girls make up an estimated 71%, meanwhile, men makeup 29% of enslaved people. Over half of human trafficking cases active in the U.S. involve only children where many come from foster care systems. The most-reported ethnic groups in the business from most to least are Latinx, Asian, and Black. Migrants and homeless people, especially, are very vulnerable to these forces. Language barriers and fear of getting in trouble with the law prevent many victims from seeking help. 

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and it is represented by the color blue. Advocates, organizations, and individuals come together to raise awareness about the issue this month. In order to put an end to human trafficking, it is necessary to start with acknowledging its existence. The Department of Homeland Security created the Blue Campaign, which includes many opportunities for people to raise awareness about human trafficking. These movements help fight against sexual violence and forced labor around the globe, and provide people with the resources necessary to get help and stay safe. To report suspected human trafficking to Federal Law enforcement, please contact 1-866-347-2423, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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