BY ELISA W. COPPEDE
What is a severe life-threatening problem that affects every country in the world? Human trafficking. According to dosomething.org, a website dedicated to helping young adults volunteer, promote social change, and conduct civic action campaigns to make a real-world impact on causes they care about, “internationally, only about .04% of survivors of human trafficking cases are identified, meaning that the vast majority of cases of human trafficking go undetected.” How many international human trafficking cases does this translate to? “Internationally, there are between 20 million and 40 million people in modern slavery today,” the website states.
What is even more shocking is that many of these cases occur in the United States, not a far-off country. “In 2018, over half (51.6%) of the criminal human trafficking cases active in the US were sex trafficking cases involving only children,” the website states. Why is this a business that continues to flourish? Just like all supply versus demand industries, this business continues to move on because the profits are so high. “Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation,” the website reports.
With numbers as terrifying as this, it is vital to properly educate ourselves on human trafficking, as well as learn how to prevent future cases from happening to loved ones. Since there are a great number of myths out there about human trafficking, it is first important to be able to distinguish between truth versus myths. Take time to educate yourself this January and learn and read on to learn all about the dangers of this far too common “business.”
Human Trafficking Myth #1: Only women and girls are victims of human trafficking. This is absolutely a myth in that this industry does not only seek women and girls. One study estimates that as many as half of trafficking cases are male. What types of males are most vulnerable to becoming trafficked? According to the Polaris.org website, which operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, “this percentage may be even higher, but male victims are far less likely to be identified.” Also, LGBTQ boys and young men are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, so it is vital to note this.
Human Trafficking Myth #2: Human trafficking only occurs in “underground” or shady locations. This is another commonly stated myth about human trafficking. While many may think that this illegal activity occurs in seedy, drug-fueled spots, many of the victims of human trafficking are sought out in extremely common places. These spots include restaurants, cleaning services, construction sites, factories, and more.
Human Trafficking Myth #3: Traffickers target random individuals whom they do not know. This is another false statement. Sadly, many victims of human trafficking often are “recruited” into the industry by romantic partners, friends, and even family members. Since there is a level of trust already there, it is easy to understand how so many young adults get lost in this trade.
Human Trafficking Myth #4: Only runaways are vulnerable to human trafficking. While runaways can absolutely get caught up in trafficking cases, these are not the only individuals who may become “groomed” for this industry. According to Polaris.org, “human trafficking can happen to anyone.” However, it is vital to note that some people are more vulnerable than others. What are the risk factors that could make one more vulnerable? “Specific risk factors include recent relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system, and being a homeless youth,” the website states. Often traffickers know how to spot these individuals and can help create dependency quickly.
Human Trafficking Myth #5: Trafficking victims are held against their will and cannot physically escape. This is our last “myth” to debunk. While this can occur in specific situations, this is not the case for all victims. Some victims become so dependent on their leaders that they lack the necessities needed to get out of the business safely (i.e., transportation, accommodations, jobs, etc.) Other victims become so manipulated, they do not identify as being under the control of another person.
Please properly educate yourself on this horrible crime so we can prevent future victims!