In 2010, by Presidential Proclamation, January was dedicated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This form of exploitation is often not understood or openly discussed. However, there are thousands of victims in the United States and millions worldwide.
“Human trafficking is not a crime that most people would identify as being a problem in their
community,” said Prosecutor Quinn. “The truth is, it is a major issue both in the United States and
worldwide and there are potential victims in every community.”
Human trafficking affects all populations, including adults, children, men, women, foreign nationals, and U.S. citizens, and crosses all economic classes. However, women and children suffer disproportionately from trafficking, representing an estimated 80% of victims worldwide.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states that victims in the U.S. are almost exclusively immigrants who are particularly vulnerable to the deception and coercion of traffickers due to their lower levels of education, lack of fluency in English, immigration status and not being aware of U.S. employment protections.
Human trafficking is driven by global demand for cheap, unskilled, exploitable labor. It is now the second-largest criminal industry worldwide, after drug trafficking, and is the fastest-growing criminal industry, according to the ACLU.
To help raise awareness of this important issue and to stop it, it is vital that individuals learn about human trafficking and how to spot signs of the crime.
According to the U.S. Dept. of State, “trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking” and “modern slavery” are terms often used interchangeably in reference to a crime involving traffickers exploiting and profiting at the expense of victims by forcing them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex.
There are two primary forms of trafficking in persons recognized in the United States – forced labor and sex trafficking.
Perpetrators use force, fraud, and coercion to gain compliance. Human trafficking victims may also be forced into prostitution, performing criminal acts, entering into a marriage against their will, or having an organ removed.
It is common for victims of trafficking to be lured by false promises of decent jobs and a better way of life. Once they are in the situation, it can be all but impossible for them to escape because they are often isolated and controlled by their traffickers. Traffickers recognize the vulnerability and take advantage of it.
The U.S. Dept. of Defense estimates 4.5 million people worldwide are victims of forced sexual exploitation; an industry generating $99 billion annually. There are an estimated 21 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labor and $51 billion is generated each year from the use of forced labor.
According to Hope for Justice, an organization that investigates human trafficking and works to raise awareness of the issue, there are signs that indicate someone could be a victim. It’s important to note that human trafficking victims often do not identify as victims and may not realize they are being controlled.
Here are some warning signs:
-Houses with too many people, who are all picked up or dropped off at the same time
-People who seem scared, confused, or show signs of untreated injuries
-No control over their mail, phone, or personal documents
-Low or no pay
-Limited ability to move about freely
-Fear of police/authorities
-Showing anxiety or reluctance to talk about their situation
-Signs of physical abuse
“Human trafficking is an issue that is of growing concern because it has become so prevalent,” said
Prosecutor Quinn. “It is up to all of us to educate ourselves and to alert authorities if we have reason to
believe someone is a victim of this terrible crime.
If you suspect someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, contact your local law enforcement agency or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. For more information, visit the website http://humantraffickinghotline.org.