How can one be blind to an issue that glares right in front of them? Is it the intensity of the light that blocks all color? Or is it that they are unable to look at it? Herein lies the word oblivion: unawareness or carelessness of what is happening around one. Oblivious are the citizens who celebrate their own freedoms as if they belonged to all. Oblivious are those who are afraid to look further than the immediacy of their own lives, blocking out all possible existence of immorality solely because it does not exist for them. Human trafficking is the third largest illegal market running in America today, generating a thirty-two billion dollar profit (Illegal). Yet only the few million suffering from this, and the few people who care enough to be conscious of it, are conscious of such immoral circumstances.
The National Trafficking Hotline labels human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his or her will.”(Report) According to the National Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking in America increased by thirty-five percent during 2016. Out of the cases reported, 6340 were females, 978 were males, and 70 were gender minorities. 2387 of them were minors. Seventy-three percent of cases reported were for sex trafficking, fourteen percent were for labor, and thirteen percent were undefined. The average starting age of a victim is thirteen. One out of every ten people are ten years old or younger. Seventy percent of U.S. trafficking victims come out of the foster care system. According to the FBI, eighty percent of trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. (Report)
These are uncomparable to just another set of numbers plastered onto a billboard, and they should not be glossed over as such: these numbers represent enslaved people. The problem is complex and pervasive, and it is daunting to make sense of. Once it is understood, however, it is empowering.The statistics alone will not leverage one with a complete understanding of the subject. To understand the complexities of Human Trafficking, one must separate the facts from fiction.
Human trafficking and human smuggling are not the same thing. Human trafficking is the use of force to exploit the victim for labor, sex, or slavery. Human smuggling is the transport of an individual from one destination to another, usually with the person’s consent. Human trafficking is used for means other than prostitution: it also refers to forced intense labor.
Human traffickers do not have a specific stereotype, unlike they appear to have in the movie Taken. A trafficker can sadly range from a politician to a gang member. Rather than spotting for a trafficker, one should become knowledgeable in the subject of screening the victim. Some common signs are tattoos or branding on parts of the neck, nails and hair well done, knife cuts, bruises, cigarette burns, inappropriate clothing for their age, drug addiction, or someone unwilling to leave their side.
Victims, unlike many would think, will not jump or make efforts to tell that the truth. The reason for this lies the in unworkable policies of the criminal justice system–a new topic that deserves it own discussion. For the purpose of clarifying the subject of Human Trafficking, it is only important to note that the victims are the ones that risk incarceration, rather than the traffickers. Victims are commonly arrested for nonviolent offenses that are related to their trafficking situations such as truancy, running away, or petty theft. It is therefore important that one does not heavily question or invade the victim when they first meet with them, but that one questions the victim considerately.
It is a common falsehood that all are deceived into being trafficked. Under poor circumstances, however, some will engage themselves hoping to obtain profit. Parents will send their children away for sex or labor work, also in aim to make profit. In the second case, however, the children have not made the decision themselves. That is human trafficking.
For good reasons, there are many advocacy groups working to combat Human Trafficking nationally and globally. One of the most influential groups within the United States is the Polaris Project. Polaris Project’s model to fight modern day slavery is comprised of three strategies. The first is to “respond to victims of human trafficking effectively and immediately.” The second is to “equip key stakeholders and communities to address and prevent human trafficking.” The third is to “disrupt the business of human trafficking through targeted campaigns.” (Theory) With these strategies, they have produced substantial results.
Polaris has been involved in drafting and advocating for 127 Anti-Human Trafficking Laws–all of which have been passed–at the Senate and state level. Since 2007, Polaris’s BeFree Textline has learned of and reported 31,000 instances of human trafficking across the United States. Polaris has reported 6,500 of these cases to Law Enforcement. Polaris has trained 80,000 individuals and organizations to identify and stop trafficking. The list goes on. (Theory)
Backpage.com announced last month–after a two year Senate investigation and the arrest of the CEO and Founders–that they were closing their Adult advertising section. Seventy-one percent of all human trafficking victims were being sold on Backpage.com. This did not handle the problem, but it has been a step towards raising awareness across the nation. A new film, I Am Jane Doe, chronicles the fight of three families to have their thirteen- and fifteen-year-old girls’ photos taken down from Backpage.com. This is yet another example of the awareness that people are starting to raise over this subject.
It is proper to believe that the leaders of our nation–from branch to branch–would act quickly to eradicate such an issue. This doesn’t prove to be the case, for if it were, the statistics would look less daunting. In fact, K and 14th street, D.C.– the dead center of the U.S. capitol– is one of the densest and most expensive place for sex trafficking.
Whether these are cases of ignorance, oblivion, or irresponsibility among such opinion leaders we can never be certain. No citizen or governing body should exemplify any of the three. We may not possess the power or gold of kings, but every one of us possesses the power of human rights.
It is up to us to empower the nation to take action. This is done through establishing truth and responsibility among our peers. The more knowledgeable the nation becomes, the more responsible they will become too.