Sex Trafficking in the U.S.

By Mary James img.jpg

The Department of Homeland security defines human trafficking as a “modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.” In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million
human trafficking victims worldwide. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, sexual exploitation is the most commonly identified form of slavery. It is forced labor. Numbers released by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center suggest that in the U.S. more than 4,000 cases of sex trafficking were reported.

The End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT USA), an anti-trafficking agency, states that the average age of entry into street prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old, though there have been cases of girls as young as 9 years old. Victims of sex trafficking are mostly girls and young women.

Tina Frundt wrote one of the most referenced resources from a past initiative of the Women’s Funding Network. Tina said, “The pimps who are trafficking young women and girls on the street have a great marketing tool: the media. You can turn on the TV and now see pimps glamorized in TV shows, music, videos, and movies. Young people use “pimp” in everyday conversation: “my ride is pimped out,” “your clothes are pimping.” They do not understand the reality behind the term.”

According to Tina, pimps prey on young women and girls by finding their weaknesses and exploiting it. It is easier to manipulate children, and by the time children become adults, they are broken down and dependent on a pimp. After the pimp gets into your mind, it’s easy for the leader to maintain control. The leader can be male or female. In other parts of the world women are majority in this role. As a whole, sex trafficking is a money-spinning industry that ranks up to $150 billion. Traffickers often tell the victims that they will call the police on them if they don’t listen and do what their told. Victims cooperate because they believe they will get charged for prostitution. Victims are fearful to speak up because they do not want to be charged for a crime. Traffickers also use a variety of other techniques to intimidate the victims such as, drug addiction, psychological abuse, romance, debt bonding, and confiscation of identification cars and documents. Each case varies. The person could be working alone or the person could be working with a ring of pimps that have control over multiple woman instead of just one or two.

There are several signs of people who fall victim to sex trafficking. It’s important to be able to recognize these signs. Some signs are; not having control over their money, showing signs of physical abuse, appearing to be fearful or under control of another person, unable to freely contact family and friends, not allowed to socialize, and much more.

According to Polaris “Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.”

Vulnerable populations are usually victims of sex trafficking such as runaway and homeless youth, victims of domestic assault sexual assault, war, and social discrimination. Anyone can fall victim to sex trafficking: U.S citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is the most important anti-trafficking law ever passed. TVPA combats trafficking by their “3 P’s” – prosecution, protection, and prevention. The United States government estimates that between 14,500-17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.

Some people don’t understand why victims don’t leave when they have an opportunity to escape. What most people don’t know is the pimps often manipulate them, use physical and emotional abuse, threats, and even create trauma bonds between the victim and them to scare them from leaving.

89 percent want to exit but cannot, 67 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 73 percent of the victims have been physically assaulted.

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