Understanding Human Trafficking: Shedding Light on a Global Crisis

Often, people think of human trafficking based on what they saw in the movie “Taken”. They think it is young women kidnapped and forced to work in brothels somewhere in Europe. While that is human trafficking and it does happen, the issue is so much bigger. Human trafficking affects millions of people worldwide, including within the borders of the United States. It is a form of modern-day slavery, where individuals are exploited for labor, sex, to be child soldiers, or other purposes through force, fraud, or coercion.

Films like the recent “Sound of Freedom” or 2016’s “Priceless” have been great at raising awareness through their medium, while accurately representing the crimes being committed. Both are excellent movies and we recommend them. But more awareness is needed.

The founders of Better Protectors have been human trafficking activists for years. We’ve served on the board of a human trafficking outreach non-profit and were educators for them, training both law enforcement and the public on the issue. This is a cause near to our hearts.

Defining Human Trafficking

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), human trafficking involves three key elements:

  1. The Act: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person.
  2. The Means: Through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
  3. The Purpose: For the purpose of involuntary servitude, forced labor, or commercial sex exploitation.

This definition encompasses both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, recognizing that individuals can be exploited in various industries and sectors. The TVPA also emphasizes that any individual under the age of 18 involved in commercial sex is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of individuals through coercion or deception for the purpose of exploitation. Victims of trafficking may be forced into labor-intensive industries, such as agriculture, construction, or domestic work. They can also be subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, massage parlors, or even through online platforms. Tragically, children are particularly vulnerable to this heinous crime.

The Scale of the Problem

To comprehend the magnitude of human trafficking, let’s consider some statistics. According to the Polaris Project, approximately 28 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor, with nearly 5 million of them trapped in sexual exploitation. In short, that’s more people in slavery today than when slavery was legal.

It’s not just the number of people that makes the scale massive. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry, affecting nearly every country. A pound of cocaine is sold once. A person can be sold over and over.

Human Trafficking in the United States

Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is not confined to far-off lands; it persists within the borders of the United States as well. The U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report reveals that between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked into the country each year. It’s important to note that these numbers represent only a fraction of the actual cases due to the clandestine nature of the crime.

It’s also important to realize that these aren’t only people being transported across national borders. Citizens and legal immigrants are trafficked within the US as well. Sometimes in their own community. And it’s not only women and girls that are victims. Men and boys are also exploited for labor and sex trafficking. Learn more about facts and myths here.

The Impact on Victims

Human trafficking inflicts severe physical, psychological, and emotional harm on its victims. Many survivors suffer from physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, mental health disorders, and substance abuse issues. They often experience profound trauma and are stripped of their autonomy and dignity. Trapped in a cycle of abuse and exploitation, victims find it incredibly challenging to escape their captors.

Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Governments, NGOs, and international organizations have been working tirelessly to combat human trafficking. The United States has implemented the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which provides support for victims, prosecutes traffickers, and promotes prevention efforts. Globally, the United Nations has developed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

There are NGOs that are doing amazing work. We’ve supported Operation Underground Railroad for years. They specialize in rescuing children in sex trafficking. 2 things that separate them from many other organizations is that they actively assist countries in rescuing victims and making arrests. In addition, OUR provides aftercare for those rescued. This is a step missing from so many well-meaning groups.

Aside from OUR and the aforementioned Polaris Project, groups like A21 are also doing great things.

Whose Problem is it?

It’s mine. It is yours. It’s ours. We may not be responsible for starting the problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not our problem. It takes effort from many people in many ways. It can be spreading awareness. It’s contributing money. It could be reporting suspected actions. It’s contacting your representatives and urging them to do more.

If you are saying to yourself “I care”, that’s great. The question is: Do you care enough to do something about it?

Raising Awareness and Taking Action

Awareness is the first step toward addressing human trafficking effectively. By understanding the signs and indicators, we can recognize potential victims and report suspicions to the appropriate authorities. Operation Underground Railroad, Polaris, and A21 offer resources, training, and helplines for those seeking assistance or reporting suspected cases. The National Human Trafficking Hotline also has resources and ways to report. You can access them online or by calling 1-888-373-7888

Human trafficking is a global crisis that demands our attention and action. The statistics and facts presented highlight the gravity of the situation both globally and within the United States. By spreading awareness, supporting anti-trafficking initiatives, and advocating for stronger legal measures, we can strive to eradicate this abhorrent crime.

If you are interested in having us, come to your business, civic group, or neighborhood association to do training on Human Trafficking Awareness, contact us.

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