There is a pandemic that has plagued our world long before the onset of COVID-19.
For centuries the human trafficking industry, though only recently referred to as such, has been claiming the lives of women, children, and men. While 99% of the world’s $150 billion a year exploitation industry are women and girls, men fall victim to “The Life” also. “The Life” is just one of the terms used to refer to an individual in a trafficking situation. As an organization focused on the betterment of people and allowing them to live their life as God intends, we are asking you to help bring an end to this exploitive crime that has become woven into our modern world. In order to halt and end human trafficking, awareness and education must occur first. What IS Human Trafficking?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, (dhs.gov) Human Trafficking is defined as “...the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” In 2019, the United States identified over 22,000 cases of human trafficking with over 14,000 of those being victims of the sex trade. (Polarisproject.org)
Now we know the what and the how many, the bigger questions we should ask ourselves are why and what. Why, or how does a person become trapped in a situation like this? What can we do as individual people do to stop the abuse?
Trafficking experiences can vary from survivor to survivor so it can be difficult at times to identify a situation. One common tactic used is grooming which entails an abuser building a perceived trust with the individual and manipulating the individual to fulfill the abuser’s own wants, needs, and desires. This process can occur over time as the abuser builds trust. Sometimes this process includes a “recruiter” that prey upon people that typically have a poor social status, low self-esteem, or a destitute economic situation. The recruiter offers something the victim is trying to fill such as an emotional or physical need. Many victims are unaware they are being drawn into "the life” as they begin to trust the individual.” Once the trafficker has gained the individual’s trust, the trafficker will then start requiring “favors” or some type of repayment. This “repayment” is typically sexual in nature. If the victim refuses to comply, it can lead to physical abuse in which the victim either feels they deserve, or simply can’t escape. Victims can also experience what is commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome in which a captor may feel the abuser or trafficker loves them in spite of their abusive treatment. This is why it is so important to know the signs of trafficking in the sex industry.
Police and law enforcement professionals have been making huge progress in identifying and breaking sex trafficking operations across the country in more recent years. This is due in part to people identifying signs and choosing to no longer stay silent about what they see. There are actually several signs which should set off warning sirens and be an alarming call to action. Indicators may include, but are not limited to:
- Young people inappropriately involved with significantly older adults
- People referring to “The Life,” “The Game,” or their “Daddy”
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Branding or tattooing that indicates property of another individual
- Unexplained or expensive gifts
- Being fearful or anxious, about a significant other knowing their whereabouts
The above are just a few key indicators someone may be living a dangerous lifestyle or trapped in a situation where they may feel helpless or hopeless. The presence of a single indicator does not confirm trafficking but could be a sign of an individual being at-risk and in need of help.
Here at Hoyleton, our Prevention team offers safe, reliable, and effective programs that help those in subjugation to the industry. With healthy recovery options, the HALO (Healing and Loving Oneself) program offers one-on-one and community-based care. HALO also offers presentations that can be customized by community to help raise awareness of both sexual and labor exploitation.
While this is a dismal, dark, and disturbing industry, there is something you can do to help stop the machine, or at the very least, slow it down. Those caught up in this industry need you to speak up. When we open our eyes to the world around us and know what to look for, we start to shed light into the lives of those who are in the darkest places. Unless you are a law enforcement professional or licensed social worker, direct involvement is discouraged, but help for someone in need is just a phone call away. The key component and best course of action is to know the signs, spread the word and educate others about the seriousness of Human Trafficking, and encourage others to do the same.
If someone you know or love may be at risk, the following resources may help you help them find safety.