There are many types of trafficking, “including labor, sex, debt, and organ donation,” but labor and sex trafficking are the most common.
Who Does Human Trafficking Affect?
According to the Polaris Project, human trafficking “victims are from all geographic, socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, and educational backgrounds,” but adults with developmental delays, identify as part of the LGBT+ community, struggle with substance abuse, have a mental illness, are “experiencing emotional pain or distress,” have “significant or prolonged family struggles or dysfunction,” are in poverty, are homeless, suffer “from hunger or malnourishment,” and/or a “history as a victim of domestic violence” are all at risk. Some of those categories are pretty broad, such as “experiencing emotional pain or distress” and that’s the point. Sex and labor traffickers will find any type of vulnerability, be it emotional or physical, and they will exploit that.
“Traffickers prey on an individual’s vulnerability by initially offering to provide for a need, for example, buying a meal or clothing, offering a place to sleep, or paying for transportation. Larger amounts of money spent on behalf of the victim may include providing a plane ticket for a ‘job offer’ or to begin a romantic relationship. Once the ‘act of kindness’ is complete, the victim quickly learns of the deception and debt, triggering an indentured cycle of dependency” (2).
Not all modelling contracts are a human trafficking situation. A legitimate modelling job will involve a reputable modeling agency booking a person jobs. It does not involve someone reaching out to you via the internet or who you randomly met in public turning you into a “model.”
Smartphone apps, the internet, video games
Teenagers are especially vulnerable; the average age of victims is 16, but some are 9 or younger (4). Many teens suffer from low self-esteem already. A trafficker will get in contact with a teen and shower them with compliments. The internet is a great place for a trafficker to lure teens. They can set up a profile with a different picture, put down a false name and age, and then shower a teen with compliments, and offer them a job or a modelling contract. One non-profit found that “[t]raffickers often seek out children online who appear vulnerable, depressed, seem emotionally isolated from family and friends, have low-esteem or appear to have a lot of unsupervised time” (5). So if your teen is struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or has few friends, be especially cautious.
How You Can Help
A common misconception is that most human trafficking victims in the United States are originally from a different country. In reality, most victims in the United States are native-born (4). So it’s important that you become aware of the situation in your community and how to prevent it.
The first place to fight human trafficking is in your home. Educating household members, family, and friends on common signs that they or someone they know is extremely important. Getting a web filter will help keep individuals safe online, which is key since so many children and teens are exploited via the internet. Global EP recently partnered with TheCleanerNet, a company that provides a simple device to provide web filtering.
You can also help by providing supplies to human trafficking victims. When victims are rescued from trafficking situations, they cannot take anything with them. Rescue Packs provide basic necessities such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and pajamas. When victims have these packs, they feel less vulnerable and are less likely to return to a trafficking situation because their basic needs are met.
Trafficking occurs across the globe. Humanitarian trips can be a great opportunity to fight trafficking, especially if the trip includes educating individuals and the community. This education can include skills to help individuals break the poverty cycle or human trafficking awareness. Global EP provides volunteer opportunities to teach both on international trips.