Sex & Modern Slavery: All the tactics traffickers use to lure victims into the multi-million dollar business
The problem may not be blatantly visible, but it certainly is there, rampant and happening every day. According to the US State Department estimates, there are 24.9 million victims of human trafficking across the globe. Trafficking is considered modern-day slavery and there are more slaves today than at any point of time in history.
According to the United Nations, trafficking in persons has three salient elements based on the definition given in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. Firstly, the "Act is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons." Secondly, "the Means entails threats or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim." And thirdly, for "the Purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs."
Every state across the US reports several cases of sex trafficking each year. Because of its covert nature, it is very difficult to retrieve accurate information. However, data collected from the US State Department and Human Trafficking Hotlines help paint an overview of what exactly goes on within this illicit business. The American sex-trafficking trade is a multi-million dollar business. Once lured in, trafficked people are exploited in unimaginable ways, and escape from the atrocities is difficult. However, over the years law enforcement has been taking measures to combat the problem, but there is still a long way to go.
Some findings have concluded that the victim population of sex-trafficking predominantly comprises females, although there is no solid data or statistics backing this point. Reports, however, suggest that up to 98 percent of the victims are women, including children and adolescent teens, while the remaining minuscule percentile consists of male victims. But how do victims find themselves at the center of this contraband business? In the US, there are a variety of channels of recruitment and induction into sex trafficking. For one, various studies have found that individuals who have been victimized under trafficking were also victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Between 90 to 95% of victims of trafficking have also been abused as children which renders them vulnerable to other forms of exploitation like coercion, Jeanne Allert, CEO and Executive Director of non-profit organization, The Samaritan Women, tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). However, a predominant demographic that is highly susceptible to this form of exploitation are children that come out from the foster care system and don't have a strong family support structure.
According to a 2019 report from the Human Trafficking Institute, at least nine child victims were in foster care at the time of recruitment. Although nine may be an underrepresentation, there is limited information available in public court documents, press releases, and news articles. Allert says that it is necessary to consider that coastal states, particularly the warmer regions, have a higher incidence of people who are homeless and children who are runaways because they can live outside. "Their population is just more obvious," she adds.
An Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services report found that the common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking include the promise of better economic opportunities in a foreign country, false marriage proposals turned into a bondage situation and being sold into the sex trade by parents. The economy especially is a big channel where people get inducted in sex trafficking. Allert explained poverty is an area of exploitation and trafficking happens under the guise of getting work, getting out of their current circumstance or just getting nicer things. There are also families that exploit children aged between eight and 12, under the realm of familial trafficking.
Major metropolitan areas around international airports, where conventions are held, sports entertainment centers, and transportation venues tend to be clustered for more trafficking. The internet is yet another medium. We are well aware of the indispensable aspect of the world wide web, but it also has a dark side to it. Many victims of sex trafficking possess relational vulnerability. This means they could be in a family situation where they have been ignored since young, and spend hours surfing the web where they meet people who are more than willing to spend time with them. "The ploy for romance is a big one particularly among pre-teen and adolescent girls," Allert elaborates. Girls are attracted by the aspect of being loved by someone, especially since they haven't had that experience before.
At the higher end of the spectrum, the internet is also a hotbed for the sugaring business. The dollar value around that is much higher and it usually tightly-guarded and very private. "Where we see centers of affluence is where we can anticipate more trafficking to occur because there's more discretionary income, there may be more of those venues," Allert observes. Pimps and traffickers use a cyclic method of abuse and affection to exploit and control their victims as well as brainwash them into thinking this is what's best for them.
They also keep them loyal so they don't approach law enforcement and testify against them. "I think it is fair for us to assume that if we understand sex trafficking at all, we understand that it is a supply-and-demand business," says Allert. "Much like any economic system its strata. It runs from high-end to low-end", she adds. In the middle section of the continuum are venues like websites, strip clubs, sporting events, conventions, congregational opportunities, etc. Brothels, street-level prostitution forms the lower economic end of the spectrum.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of trafficking, call the national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888 or text "HELP" to 233-733.
Sex & Modern Slavery is a campaign focused on the issues of human trafficking within the sex industry in the US. Over the next few days, this column will feature stories on the aspects of the illicit business and the role of the society in mitigating the issue.