Human trafficking is a broad term used to cover many scenarios of exploitation. From commercial sex, to forced labor, to child soldiers, and everything in between. Human trafficking is modern day slavery. An idea the people of today look back on and think, “How could there have ever been a time when people allowed slavery to happen?”. Though simultaneously, many people today turn their heads and look the other way when it is right in front of them. Specifically in the U.S., sex trafficking is one of the three most common types of human trafficking put all together. From The International Labor Organization, “estimates there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation and 75% of them are females” (US Department of State).
Everyone has seen a sex trafficking victim in person whether they want to believe it or not. The girls out on the street at night, as young as 12, pacing back and forth in high heels are most often victims. Though, through social media and other platforms who glorify the situation, people believe that it’s the girls choice to be out there and they put themselves there. While that might be the case for a very small percentage, more often than not those girls are forced out there by a pimp. ” Nearly one-third of the pimps interviewed said they entered the underground commercial sex economy because they grew up around it” (The Gospel Coalition). A pimp (male) or a madame (female) is a trafficker who takes in several girls at one time and forces them to sell themselves for money. They have a daily or weekly quote the girls have to make, and all profits go back to them. If the girls refuse or try to run away the consequences are physical and mental abuse.
While it may seem unlikely, young women are brought into the trade through parents/family and romantic partners who promise a better life. The girls are so willing to commit, without really knowing what they’re getting into, because they are runaways, or fostcare, or from an abusive home. The pimps target these vulnerable populations on purpose, so in the end they can play the role of knight in shining armor. They impress the adolescent and gain their trust buying them things, taking them out, and listening to them. Then after a short-while, these deceiving men and women convince the teenagers to split; far from anyone who could help them. Another way more bodies are brought into the trade is through already trapped girls. They go out and talk to friends and other girls who know not to trust strange men. Falsely, they play up their life is and how they love it. That these individuals can have it to, but only if they ditch school with their new “friend”.
One of the only ways to prevent sex trafficking is by being educated about the signs. It is important to educate children and young adults on what a trafficker is and their tricks. Human trafficking awareness training is given to law enforcement, first responders, and educators. Specific states have laws that conform to each one individually, i.e. ” Under U.S. law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking — regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.”. Over the years in the U.S., with americans realising that it is happening right under their noses, the support and awareness has become greater to combat the results of human trafficking. There are countless organizations and movements that rehabilitate the victims after the situation, treatment for HIV/AIDS is usually part of the recovery. There are 24-hour hotlines that provide free service and special groups that offer protection and push the girls toward prosecuting their trafficker. Sex trafficking isn’t one person’s doing or a problem that can be fixed overnight, however with each little precaution or shared story, it is a step in the right direction.
For the longest time, Americans believed that sex trafficking only happened in other countries and in far away places. For instance SOLD by Patricia McCormick, tells the story of Lakshmi as 13 year old Nepal girl who was sold into the trade. Unfortunately Lakshmi was put in her situation because there was no awareness raised, and instead rumors of false hope. In the book, “I can work for a rich family like Gita does, and send my wages home to you” (McCormick 1). Due to Lakshmi and her family living in the rural area of Nepal, the sex trade was described as housekeeping in the city, this lead to her horrible journey. However, the truth is sex trafficking happens all over the world, even in the U.S.. The solution is not an easy one, but we globally can face the problem head on by recognizing the signs when we see them. Most importantly to open our hearts, our minds to the survivors and remember that these people were just looking for someone to help them from the beginning.