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What Does the Trafficking of Human Beings Look Like?


What does human trafficking mean?

What does human trafficking look like? Imagine a young girl on her cellphone, texting, then telling her parents she is going to meet her friends for the night. Or imagine a young girl who does not speak English and has no visible means of support yet wears designer clothes, carries an expensive purse and enhances her age with inappropriate makeup. Both scenarios paint the picture of prostitution where the prostitutes are the victims.

In the first scenario, the young girl is silently communicating with her pimp, perhaps at the dinner table. She does not inform her family because of the threat of harm. In the second scenario, the young girl was transported across the border. She now is as part of the $150-billion-a-year sex-trade industry. Human trafficking has many faces.

“Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit,” according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions.”

Federal law defines the act as coercing an individual into a sex-for-hire scheme by force and / or fraud, meaning it is against the victim’s will. There is an exception when it comes to minors, however. In those cases, force and fraud need not be present for human trafficking to be proved.

“The Action-Means-Purpose (AMP) Model can be helpful in understanding the federal law,” according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “Human trafficking occurs when a perpetrator, often referred to as a trafficker, takes an Action, and then employs the Means of force, fraud or coercion for the Purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts or labor or services.”

Recognizing the various signs of human trafficking takes a trained eye. But when one learns what those signs are and how they manifest themselves, the very first steps of helping curb the crisis are taken. Below is a list of “Indicators of Human Trafficking” as they appear on the Department of Homeland Security’s Web site.

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

The indicators do not stop there. They also are exhibited by adults complicit in the exploit, such as owners / operators of hotels and motels, bars and restaurants and transportation services.

“To end human trafficking, we must work together by identifying best practices across the country and help one another implement them in communities throughout the U.S.,” according to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. “No one organization has the solution, and the areas of expertise needed are broad and deep. Focus on the restoration of victims, education of communities, law enforcement and students, and an all-out assault on fighting the demand are necessary to begin to see progress being made.”

How prevalent is the problem? Statistics show that at any given time during the year, more than 40 million modern-day slaves walk the earth, of which 25 million are sex slaves. Do the math, and that translates to 5½ victims per 1,000 people. Still, it is impossible to know the full extent of the problem because it is, by nature, a hidden crime.

“Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for 28.7 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total,” states a 2017 report by the International Labour Office titled “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery.” “More precisely, women and girls represent 99 per cent of victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 58 per cent in other sectors, 40 per cent of victims of forced labour imposed by state authorities, and 84 per cent of victims of forced marriages.”

More light needs to be shed on the subject. To that end, Super Bowl LIV illuminated not only on the San Francisco 49ers and the victorious Kansas City Chiefs but also the opportunities such a significant sporting event brings to human traffickers.

“For the organizations fighting the crime of trafficking, the Super Bowl is prime time because of the connection between sports and the sale of sex,” the Miami Herald reported in a story titled ‘A bonanza for traffickers’: Why a Miami Super Bowl is a magnet for sex-trafficking. “According to human trafficking data compiled by the Institute for Sport and Social Justice’s “Shut Out Trafficking” program, there’s consistently a spike of reported incidents in the U.S. around January and February (when the Super Bowl takes place),” ESPN reported in a story titled “The Super Bowl remains target for human trafficking.” “In January 2019, there were approximately 450 reported incidents, with a jump to approximately 540 in February. It dropped down to 140 incidents in March 2019. In recent years, the increased visitors in host cities tend to encourage the criminal activities of human trafficking and sex trafficking. It is often found that criminally organized sex rings will travel from one location to another to meet the demand of large sporting events. And, according to the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, these types of large sporting events can lead to a culture of partying, drinking, and, too often, engaging in paid sex activities.”

In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, law-enforcement officers arrested 169 involved in human trafficking. In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, the number of arrests was 110.

To report suspected human trafficking, call Hope for Justice at 615-356-0946 or email Call 911 if someone seems to be in danger.

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