3 Things You Didn’t Know About Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking is a serious, but silent, problem. It affects millions of people worldwide every single day, but if most of us are honest with ourselves, we probably don’t give it a second thought as we go about our daily routines. While the byproducts of trafficking are all around us — in the stores we shop at, the clothing we wear, the foods we eat, the entertainment we consume — most of us don’t notice them at all. After all, it’s not as if every sweatshirt you pick up has a tag reading “Product of Human Trafficking.”
The only way to avoid being a part of the problem (and start becoming part of the solution) is to understand how trafficking works. Many people understand the basics: It has to do with forcing or coercing someone into labor or sexual acts. It often has something to do with prostitution and sexual exploitation. It more often is related to sweatshops or other unsafe and illegal working conditions.
But human trafficking is a much deeper and more complicated issue than that. Here are 3 things you probably didn’t know about human trafficking. When you’re done reading them, we hope you’ll share them on social media, so you and your friends can start to become a part of the solution and stop trafficking in our communities.
It’s not just about poor people, kidnapped children, and runaways.
When you think of the type of person who might become a victim of human trafficking, you might picture someone who’s living in deep poverty; someone who’s addicted to drugs; someone who’s homeless; or a child or teenager who’s either been kidnapped for the purpose of exploitation, or has run away from home and is now vulnerable. But statistics show that trafficking can happen to anyone. While most trafficking victims are females under the age of 18, 45% of victims worldwide are men. And while factors such as poverty and immigration status can increase the risk of being victimized, many trafficking victims are middle-class and even hold college degrees. This is a crime that does not discriminate.
US Labor Laws can actually encourage trafficking, not discourage it.
Particularly in the restaurant and domestic service industries, the way our current labor laws are structured can allow traffickers to hide within the system. Some contributing factors include the tip-based minimum wage system, which can allow conditions in which restaurant workers are intimidated and forced to give up their tips, thereby making it impossible for them to earn a living wage; overtime abuses; and a lack of legal protections for domestic workers that can lead to bait-and-switch agreements wherein domestic workers enter into a contract with reasonable terms, only to have that contract broken once they’re living and working in a home. Because domestic workers aren’t currently allowed to unionize under US law, and because many workers in the restaurant and domestic industries may be immigrants with varying documentation status, it’s easy for traffickers to exploit and control these groups of workers. And it could be happening right in your town.
The criminal justice system doesn’t always protect trafficking victims.
While individuals who work in law enforcement certainly have a strong interest in stopping trafficking and protecting those who have been victimized, the harsh reality is that some of our legal codes — and many of our attitudes as a society — actively discourage trafficking victims from seeking help. In fact, many of the statutes on the books compound the problem by forcing trafficking victims to be treated as criminals themselves, rather than the victims of crime they actually are. Currently, many trafficking victims can be prosecuted for sex work, forced drug activity, or violations of immigration law that arise as a result of their bondage. There are few safeguards in place to help take these people out of the criminal justice pipeline and offer them the services they need to rebuild their lives free from trafficking.
Again, click the icons above this article and share this information on social media with those in your sphere of influence. The more we know about human trafficking, the more we can find ways to stop this problem in our communities and beyond.