In this article I’m going to give you more Human Trafficking Facts than you probably want to know. This is a difficult topic to come to terms with but it’s necessary that we understand the depth of the problem and commit to saving those lives caught up in this underground system.
What is Human Trafficking?
An alarming number of men, women, and children are trafficked every year but we don’t really hear much talk on the human trafficking facts that can bring to light what it really is. There is so much more to it than what most think and so much worse than the media might lead on. What is human trafficking exactly and how often does human trafficking happen? It entails the use of force, extortion, or threat in order to obtain compliance for acts of labor or commercial sex act. It is also referred to as modern-day slavery. Victims are coerced into a situation of being exploited which may involve various acts ranging from forced labor to marriage or worse.
Force, fraud, or coercion in cases of trafficking can consist of various means that may not be what most people conceive. Fraud often occurs when a victim is deceived by being given the assurance of a better life, offered a safe haven, or the affirmation of a loving relationship with a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Coercion may be executed by the use of highly addictive drugs, threatening the victim or family/friend of the victim with bodily harm, or by means of blackmail.
Why does human trafficking occur? The simple answer is profit. Traffickers profit from the abuse and control over others. They have no value over human life. Human trafficking is a billion-dollar industry that goes unnoticed all too often because it is hidden in plain sight. In fact, it is the hidden nature in which this crime occurs that makes it difficult to get a precise number on how many victims there are worldwide. In many cases trafficking occurs on private property, making it much more difficult to uncover as authorities can not inspect as easily as formal workplaces.
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Human Trafficking Facts and Myths
There are many misconceptions that surround this trade. Shedding some light on the truth behind these common human trafficking myths might help efforts to put a stop to it by raising awareness.
Human Trafficking Always Occurs as a Violent Crime
Most people believe trafficking always or often results in abduction or kidnapping. While there are cases where trafficking of persons occurs by a form of physical violence or kidnapping, it is not the typical means. The truth is in most situations traffickers rely on psychological means by using manipulation, intimidation, or the threat of force on victims. They prey on victims that are most vulnerable such as those seeking housing or medical treatment as they are easier to coerce. A similar misconception is that traffickers are always strangers or people the victims don’t know. The reality is a trafficker may be the victim’s spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, parent, family member, or friend.
Human Trafficking Only Occurs in Other Countries
You may think this primarily occurs in under-developed countries or it isn’t as big of an issue in the U.S. but you would be surprised. Every single country in the world is affected by human trafficking from big cities and suburbs to rural communities and small towns. You might have even come across a victim who was trapped in human trafficking and not have even known it.
Human Trafficking Only Affects Foreign-Born or Poor People
While there are certain criteria or groups that may be more vulnerable, there is no discrimination when it comes to victims of human trafficking. A similar misconception is that it only occurs in women or children as targets. Data from reported cases and investigations on human trafficking facts have confirmed victims and survivors can come from any race, nationality, age, gender, or socioeconomic background.
Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling are the Same Things
The difference between human trafficking vs human smuggling is the basis on which each is carried out. Trafficking is based on exploiting victims through fraud or extortion to profit the trafficker. Smuggling, on the other hand, is based on the movement of individuals across a country’s border, typically with their consent in an attempt to evade immigration laws. While these two have distinct differences, human smuggling can lead to trafficking if the smugglers exercise force or coerce people by means of fraud or threat to carry out labor or sexual exploitation.
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Types of Human Trafficking
There are different types of human trafficking that fall within one of two categories – sex trafficking and labor trafficking. They each affect millions of people every year. Most people probably think it is linked largely to sex trafficking and child sex trafficking. The most common form, however, is in the form of forced labor.
Also referred to as modern-day slavery, the form of human trafficking through forced labor entails a victim being forced or coerced into working or providing a service involuntarily and under the threat of punishment. Labor trafficking generates approximately $150 billion dollars annually. Victims of forced labor trafficking are generally used in agriculture, factory work, and construction. They may also be forced to work in illicit or unlawful practices.
Labor trafficking may consist of involuntary domestic servitude. This form of trafficking occurs within a living space and is not shared with other workers. An example of involuntary domestic servitude involves becoming a caretaker or work as a domestic servant. Foreign migrants, especially women, are typical targets who are recruited from under-developed countries to serve in more developed locations and are not given legal protections as foreign workers in other sectors. Involuntary domestic servants may be confined to private property and threatened with force or confiscation of identity. Victims may be seen as ‘runaways’ or criminals when they try to escape making it much more difficult for victims to reach out to authorities for assistance.
Bonded labor and debt bondage are other forms of forced labor that occur. What traffickers or recruiters do is exploit an initial debt their workers took on as arranged in the terms of their employment. The worker may have willingly accepted the agreement as a way of paying off a debt or loan, but it is still prohibited in the U.S. Oftentimes the victim becomes trapped into a cycle of increasing loan amounts with no possibility to completely pay those debts off.
Those who are most vulnerable to being subjected to forced labor are immigrants or refugees. Other factors that contribute to the vulnerability of becoming victim to forced labor include:
- High unemployment rates
- Cultural acceptance of the practice
Individuals that fall within these categories or become subjected to forced labor are generally too intimidated to seek legal action into labor violations. They have too much at stake to jeopardize themselves, therefore making labor trafficking much more difficult to track.
Sex Trafficking and Prostitution
There are some misconstrued ideas on what this form of trafficking actually is and isn’t. This is a form of human trafficking that can involve prostitution, but not always. Likewise, not all prostitution is linked back to trafficking.
Prostitution involves two people in which one person performs a sexual act for the gain or benefit of making a profit from the recipient. A person who prostitutes themself without the threat of force or under a third party is not considered trafficking. In cases of sex trafficking, it entails sexually exploiting victims through coercion or force and involves a third party as a beneficiary such as a pimp, boyfriend, or family member. Forced sexual exploitation employs 4.8 million people and among those, an estimated 71% are comprised of women and girls.
This form of trafficking is generated from the desperation of recipients and donors to form an international network for organ trafficking. Traffickers capitalize on desperate donors seeking drastic measures to improve their economic situation for themselves or for their families. Likewise, they take advantage of desperate recipients with little to no other options of improving or prolonging their life. The liver was found to be the most prevalent organ in the trafficking trade.
Contrary to what many believe, trafficking doesn’t always involve the typical cons you might expect. In many organ trafficking cases, the criminals behind it were discovered to be legitimate professionals such as doctors, nurses, medics, and other health care professionals.
A forced marriage is a form of trafficking where one or both of the individuals do not consent to enter into the marriage. Not to be confused with an arranged marriage, consent applies to an informed agreement on marrying the intended spouse. In a forced marriage a family member or other third party uses force, threat, or fraud to commit the person into marrying without consent. This practice may occur under emotional or financial pressure or the threat of physical harm.
It is estimated over 15 million people are living in a forced marriage. Victims of forced marriage can consist of men, women, boys, or girls, although women and girls account for over 80%. Forced marriages impact any religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin regardless of economic or educational background. Adults with learning disabilities or mental incapacity that cannot consent are also impacted by this form of trafficking where coercion may be involved.
There are various forms of human trafficking involving minors under the age of 18. Children are often capitalized in the trade of human trafficking for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to determine just how many different forms there are but here are some human trafficking facts we do know on the most common types which involve children.
Any commercial sex act that involves a minor under 18 years of age, regardless of under force/fraud/coercion or not, constitutes sex trafficking. Among the millions of individuals that are exploited for sex trafficking, over 1 million of those victims are comprised of children.
Any child under the minimum age of working that is forced to work, either on their own or alongside a parent or family member in forced labor, constitutes child labor trafficking. Child labor takes place in a wide range of produced goods such as bricks, cotton, rice, clothing, carpets, etc.
A child soldier is any child that is under 18 years of age who becomes recruited by an armed group and used for different purposes. Child soldiers are often recruited by violent or terrorist groups to be used as fighters, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, cooks, or for sexual purposes. Children have been used in this form of trafficking across nearly every region worldwide over the past 15 years; some of which were recruited under age 10!
In reported cases, 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers were girls, the most vulnerable to sexual violence. Transgender and LGBT-identifying individuals are also becoming increasingly vulnerable as targets.
Children that are the most vulnerable to trafficking also include:
- Children from a poor socioeconomic background
- Displaced from their families
- Children in foster care
- Limited access to education
- Individuals with disabilities
- Live in a zone of armed conflict
Additional risk factors that have contributed to the prevalence of child trafficking involved children that were victims of prior abuse or runaways. The Administration for Children and Families has since conducted new guidelines on child trafficking to homeless youth programs and child welfare systems to bring awareness and recognize critical risk factors.
In cases where a child was not forced or recruited as a soldier, they volunteered as a result of societal pressure with the impression that volunteering will offer a source of income, food, or provide a sense of security. In 20 states there were reports of child soldiers in government and non-state armed groups.
It is believed there are even more forms of trafficking that take place, but so often goes unreported. Uncovering the truth on human trafficking facts can help us gain a better understanding of the severity and prevalence of the situation to fight for an end to it.
Human Trafficking Statistics
Looking at the current statistics on this human rights abuse necessitates the need for a global response. According to the U.S. State Department, it is estimated there are over 24 million victims of human trafficking. The reality, however, is those numbers are just an average based primarily on reported or suspected cases. Research conducted by a Northeastern University professor studying human trafficking suggests these reports may reflect only 10% of the victims in a given area.
Annually, 40 million people are impacted by human trafficking worldwide. While there is much more awareness and attention on sex trafficking, the numbers of victims of forced labor are slightly greater. The number of people trafficked for forced labor among private individuals, groups or companies is 16 million. State-imposed forced labor implicates 4.1 million victims.
How to Spot Human Trafficking
You may have guessed by learning some of these human trafficking facts this form of human rights abuse doesn’t always appear as you might think. Even law enforcement officials can miss it as it occurs before them if not fully trained or skilled in identifying key indicators. Some common clues that may give in to human trafficking include the following, shared from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Someone who is a victim of trafficking might exhibit certain behaviors that could be indicators of abuse. A sudden change or dramatic difference in behavior is one example. Other behaviors include being timid, appearing fearful, or submissive, avoiding eye contact, or social interaction. Speaking or talking as if they are rehearsed or being coached on what to say can be another indicator.
There are some clear indicators that involve a person’s relationship to others that could be major red flags for trafficking. Do they appear disconnected from family, friends, or community organizations? Another indicator is who they are seen with. Human trafficking victims are not always kept isolated or confined as some might think. Often times they may be accompanied by someone who is in control over them. Is the person often found with or around someone they appear subdued to?
Physical and Emotional Signs
Trafficking victims are often the recipient of abuse in some form. Indicators of physical or mental abuse may include:
- Bruises of varying healing stages
- Disoriented or confused
- Signs of malnutrition – appearing deprived of food, water, or sleep
- Signs of lack of medical treatment
If you have some idea of what the living conditions are like it could help in identifying a case of human trafficking. Does the person live under conditions that are deemed unsuitable or does it appear they live at their place of employment? Do they appear to lack personal possessions or a stable living environment? Can they freely leave or move from where they are living or are there security measures in place that seem unreasonable?
In cases involving children, possible indicators might include a child that has stopped attending school or a juvenile found or believed to be engaged in commercial sex acts. Children that are seen serving in a family restaurant might also constitute trafficking.
What Can You Do to Stop Human Trafficking
Each human trafficking case is unique and may or may not consist of these indicators. Just the same, these signs don’t always signal a case of human trafficking. While we strive to cover everything there is to know on human trafficking facts there are still so many questions that need answers. Staying well informed can be a valuable element in recognizing and putting an end to this crime.
If you do suspect someone might be a victim of human trafficking call the 24-hour Hotline at 888-373-7888. Write down the number to the National Human Trafficking Hotline inside clothes you donate to thrift shops or shelters and share it with other outlets such as local law enforcement, city officials, schools or school districts, libraries, and other community resources.
Raise awareness of human trafficking facts on your social media platforms by sharing insights and information that can help others spot trafficking in their community. Consider hosting a community event to spread awareness or host a fundraiser to donate proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
Parents and caregivers should learn what common tactics traffickers use to target and recruit children. Learn ways to safely navigate away from situations that become uncomfortable or suspicious and practice them. Teach your children these tactics and how to avoid them and learn who to turn to for help in a potentially dangerous situation.
Additional Resources on Human Trafficking :
- United Nations : Facts on Human Trafficking
- ACLU : Human Trafficking: Modern Enslavement of Immigrant Women in the United States
- US Department of STATE : Trafficking Profile in the United States
- National Human Trafficking Hotline : toll-free phone and SMS text lines and live online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Help is available in English or Spanish, or in more than 200 additional languages through an on-call interpreter.