"It's all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it; you can sell a kilo of heroin once; you can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.” ~ TED talk speaker Tony Talbott
Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally.
Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to force adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. 68% of them are trapped in forced labor. 26% of them are children. 55% are women and girls. All this adds up to a $150 BILLION a year industry. 1.5 million of those victims are right here in the United States.
Susceptible populations are frequently targeted by traffickers, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination.
Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels.
Like most things in life, knowledge is power. In this case recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question:
• Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
• Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
• Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
• Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
• Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
• Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
• Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
• Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
• High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
• Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
• Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
• Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
• Lacks health care
• Appears malnourished
• Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
• Has few or no personal possessions
• Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
• Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
• Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
• Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
• Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
• Loss of sense of time
• Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.
Sex/Human Trafficking is happening across the country and our state. Please take the time to be aware of people you come across who may be exhibiting these signs. It may just save a life.
Another way you can help is by downloading a free app called, TraffickCam.
“You just enter your hotel name and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”
Law enforcement can use the photo database when they receive pictures of victims that are photographed for ‘sale’. They would be able to pinpoint the location of the victim down to the hotel room.
Something as simple as taking a couple of pictures during your travels has the potential to save someone from a life of unspeakable horrors.
Human trafficking isn’t slowing down. ‘Owners’ will continue to profit off of human beings through slavery. By opening a discourse about what is happening, sharing information and knowing what signs to look for, we all can become part of the resolution.