Who is involved in human trafficking? Who are the perpetrators and who are the victims?
I’ve volunteered for many different organizations that focus on disadvantaged people and attempt to heal and empower individuals who have faced hardships. I’ve worked with a lot of battered, down-and-out people and have grown somewhat accustomed to their tales of tragedy, but one thing I can never quite grow accustomed to are the stories of sex trafficking victims.
I usually only find out snippets of their histories, but it’s enough to make anyone weak in the knees. Sex trafficking is an enormous problem that crosses borders and knows no boundaries. It crops up in the most surprising places—places we believe to be safe from this kind of horrific act.
That is why I’m running a three-part series on my blog about human trafficking:
This entry: The Who. Who are the victims of human trafficking? Who are the perpetrators?
Next entry: The Signs. How can you identify a victim of sex trafficking and seek help?
Final entry: Reaching Out. If you know someone who has been a victim of human trafficking, how can you effectively and compassionately help them? How can you offer both the victim and their family the support they need?
With that sneak preview in mind, let’s start with The Who.
We live in a global society that is interconnected in many ways—trade, social media, tourism. Unfortunately, this interconnectedness crosses over into the illegal and immoral realm as well.
Sex trafficking is a problem without borders. As such, states across the U.S. are fighting this corrupt practice through advertising crusades, support networks, and public education; various countries around the world are also raising awareness by creating their own anti-trafficking campaigns. Even the United Nations jumped on board with its own efforts once it realized the large degree to which trafficking has increased across the globe.
And in Minnesota, my home state?
Minnesota is one of the top 13 states in sex trafficking. In Minneapolis, sex trafficking is being fought aggressively by task forces, coalition groups, and law enforcement training. In addition, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota created a video clearly depicting the facts about what is happening in Minnesota to girls as young as eleven. Through the “MN Girls Are Not For Sale” program, a dynamic effort is being made to not only identify the perpetrators and rid the state of this problem, but to make it easier for victims to come forward and find healing.
The truth about sex trafficking is that it has been around for eons—since the beginning of humankind. However, with globalization and advancements in technology, sex trafficking has become a larger problem: the internet helps perps find prey from anywhere in the world. While technology is making the problem more widespread, it is also enabling people to take action against it in the form of public awareness and online campaigns.
As I’ve mentioned, human trafficking isn’t unique to any particular area of the globe, but it does focus primarily on the most vulnerable: The homeless; migrants; the LGBTQ community; women in poverty; teenagers from every community abroad and in the United States, especially victims of some kind of loss, trauma, or abusive family situation, are all targets of trained traffickers. Sex trafficking crosses every line of ethnicity, color, creed, and gender.
Sex trafficking is about sex, yes, but it’s also about poverty, greed, and power. It is about slavery, abuse, and corruption leading to damaged lives, families torn apart, heartache, and even death. A common story is when older men no longer feel they can lure younger girls into relationships, they focus on young boys by promising gifts if they befriend a girl. These boys are trained to identify a girl, cozy up to her with the intention of making her believe they have a romantic relationship, gain her affection and trust, and then invite her to a party where she will be drugged and possibly kidnapped. This is one of many possible scenarios used to fill quotas for sex traffickers.
Sex trafficking is a money-making business: Whether it is the perpetrator trying to make money by providing victims, or victims needing money to support themselves and their families, it is clear that awareness through education is the best tool leading to eradication of global trafficking.
How can you identify someone who is being trafficked? Please read my next entry on “The Signs.”