Human Trafficking Revealed
Human Trafficking is a broad term that encompasses multiple forms of exploitation such as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” The two most common forms of trafficking are labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is where an individual uses force, fraud or coercion to induce another individual to work or provide a service for little or no pay. Common types include agriculture, domestic work, restaurants, cleaning services, and carnivals. Sex trafficking is when an individual uses force, fraud or coercion to induce another individual to sell sex. Common types include escort services, pornography, illicit massage businesses, brothels, and outdoor solicitation. Survivor2Leader focuses on victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
It's Happening Locally
While sex trafficking is a growing crime worldwide it is also happening right here in our own backyard. This means that someone born and raised in California can be exploited to sell sex without ever leaving her home state. Survivor2Leader focuses on victims and survivors who were sex trafficked domestically.
Sex Trafficking Explained
The trafficker, also known as a pimp, is the one controlling the child or young adult through a variety of means including beatings, threats, exploiting vulnerabilities, and coercion. There are many different types of pimps who use different tactics to lure a child into exploitation. Some start out pretending they are the girl’s boyfriend (before later turning violent), others offer promises of work opportunities, and still others get their way through violence from the start.
The john, also known as the buyer, is the individual who, for a certain amount of time, buys a child or young adult controlled by a pimp for sex.
The victim is the child or young adult who is exploited, bought, forced to have sex (and other unspeakable acts), and receives none of the money in the transaction. These girls are sometimes young adults but most girls who are exploited in this way become victims while they are still children.
Some people hear the words, “sex trafficking” and think that the girls are being forcefully restrained with chains or cages. However, this is not usually the case. Most pimps try to find the “perfect” formula of the least amount of restraint for the greatest amount of compliance. To do this, a “trafficker tries to maximize his or her profit by minimizing the amount of time and effort it takes to manipulate an individual which is also known as grooming.” Without knowing about a trafficker’s methods of coercion, it might be hard to picture how someone can be held against their will without physically being held. But imagine that someone threatens you by saying that if you do not comply, they will harm your daughter or son. Would you not do whatever it takes to make sure they stayed safe? Or imagine you’re a 12 year old and someone raped you, filmed it, and said if you did not comply, they would post the video for all to see. Would you not comply to keep that video off of social media and out of the hands of your parents or your middle school? In the same way, victims of trafficking have vulnerabilities and traffickers prey on these fears. Traffickers thrive on keeping people in a subservient mindset without ever having to physically restrain them.
Now that you know victims are not often held by physical restraints, some might ask, “why don’t they leave?” As stated before, traffickers have created a relationship with the victims such that it makes it difficult to leave. Some have no where to go, some feel like this is their only family, some were not taught what a healthy relationship looks like, so they resign themselves to the fact that this is what they will do in life. Some do not even have the luxury of dreaming beyond their current situation- that is what manipulation does. That is what traffickers do. They manipulate, exploit, and falsely make these girls believe that they cannot do anything else or go anywhere else. This is obviously false but, at the time, many girls do not understand that they are victims. They are simply surviving.
Trafficking is complicated and very simple all at the same time. Pimps want money without the risk of transporting illegal products like weapons or drugs so sex trafficking has become their cash cow. They do not care about the wellbeing of the children and will do whatever it takes to keep using them 365 days a year. Girls are bought and raped 10-15 times every night and they never see a cent of the money they are making for their pimp. Johns are literally buying other humans to do with what they please and either do not know or do not care about the psychological and physical damage they are inflicting on the girls. The ramifications of trafficking are far-reaching and it take victims and survivors many decades, if not a lifetime, to heal from the trauma it causes. When a victim finds a way out of “the life,” they begin their journey as a survivor and hopefully will become a “thriver” as they heal from their past. Survivors are incredibly strong individuals who have so much to offer. Their identity is not just in their past but in who they are now and who they will become in the future.
This was only a brief summary of trafficking but if you are interested in learning more about trafficking, the individual parties, the long-term effects, how the law addresses trafficking, how law enforcement and non-governmental organizations are involved in anti-trafficking efforts, how to spot signs that someone might be trafficked and more, then here are some links to other anti-trafficking websites, books, and resources.
If you think that someone you know might be a victim or trafficking, call your local police department or the Human Trafficking Hotline: 1(888) 373-7888