In the ideal and safe world of our collective imagination, human trafficking would be an ugly artifact of the past. In reality, human trafficking happens in modern-day America every day, across multiple industries.
Read here about what human trafficking is, whom it affects most, and how to avoid being kidnapped for human trafficking.
Get An Instant Free Course Preview
Try our best-in-class, interactive, and engaging courses for free!
What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking, with the exception of organ trafficking, falls into either "forced labor trafficking" or "sex trafficking" category (sometimes both).
- Labor trafficking is legally defined in the US as: "The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."
- Sex trafficking is defined by the same law as: "Sex trafficking in which commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age."
Who Are The Typical Human Trafficking Victims?
Based on the Polaris Project's data report for 2020, gathered from their National Human Trafficking Hotline, 68% of victims are women, 14% are male victims, with 0.5% made up of members of gender minorities such as trans individuals (and the remaining 17% marked as "unknown"). Children make up approximately one-third of trafficking cases.
Human trafficking victims can be any gender, race, religion, age, or national origin and can come from any part of the socioeconomic spectrum. That said, victims with certain characteristics and backgrounds are easier prey than others to criminals.
Who Is Targeted By Human Traffickers?
Traffickers tend to pick their targets from among the economically and socially vulnerable members of society because those individuals are likely desperate, unstable, already used to abuse, and don't have anyone advocating for them. A homeless youth living with addiction or a young person experiencing physical or sexual violence at home is a prime candidate to be sex trafficked, for example.
How Are Human Trafficking Victims Recruited/Captured?
Contrary to popular movie stereotypes and sex trafficking stories circulating around, most instances of human trafficking do not involve being kidnapped by masked gangsters in a black van in broad daylight. Human traffickers are not above using force but typically try to be more subtle than that: they employ psychological techniques and media outreach to coerce and lure victims into exploitative situations with false promises of high salaries, a better quality of life, and even romance.
Migrant workers make for a particularly attractive target for labor trafficking recruiters, as they typically can't afford to say no to any job opportunities. The "deals" they get from traffickers often involve dangerous labor conditions and come with the trap of debt bondage — having to work off a "debt" to the "boss" for travel, room, and food expenses that are increasing faster than the laborer's meager compensation can pay off.
It is known that most rapes are committed not by an unknown person jumping out of the bushes but by someone the victim already knows. In the same vein, most sex trafficking victims don't typically get snatched off the street: more often, they are groomed and misled into being sexually exploited for profit by persons they recognize.
Victims are "befriended" by traffickers in person in public places like shopping malls, sporting events and concerts, as well as online though ads (with misleading listings of "acting" or "modeling" gigs) and through social media. Sometimes a trafficker will involve another young person to help influence a young victim.
Unfortunately, even family members can be complicit with sex traffickers — like impoverished parents who turn their children over to traffickers for a financial compensation that helps support the rest of the family.
How To Avoid Falling Victim To Human Trafficking
The unfortunate reality of human trafficking is that learning to avoid "stranger danger" is not enough: we have to take into consideration the fact that a family member, an intimate partner, an acquaintance, or a neighbor can be the gatekeeper to the dark world of labor and sexual exploitation (children are especially susceptible to this).
The key advice in avoiding falling victim to trafficking is: no matter how pressed you are for a better life, beware of instant "friends" and job offers that seem "too good to be true".
With that in mind, let's go over several preventative measures women and men can take to avoid becoming victimized by traffickers in public settings.
- Avoid self-doxxing. Be careful about posting too much personal information online and do not trust "friendly" strangers on social media that know too much about you or say just the right thing.
- Stay vigilant and don't "look" like easy prey. Traffickers go after those they perceive as vulnerable and meek. Therefore, individuals who walk around appearing sad, lonely, or lost — or post things online that indicate low self-esteem — come across as "easy pickings" for their criminal intentions. It's best to walk around with confident body language and posture: it sends the message that you are self-aware — and are willing to stand up to predators.
- If stalked, call 911. Though you may feel tempted to dial a friend when feeling threatened, it's wiser to dial 911 and quickly provide your name, coordinates, and describe the person or vehicle following you. Pro tip: with iPhones, one can permanently share their location with a confidante: this way, even if one is kidnapped, but the abductor does not take their phone immediately, the victim can be geo-located by the authorities._
- If accosted, make a full-blown scene!!! Start yelling for others to call the police, making as much commotion as possible: the noise and public attention may be enough to spook away the predator.
- If attacked, be ready to fight. Unfortunately, most women are taught not to defend themselves but to shrink away in fear from any physical confrontation — and criminals count on that! Standing up for oneself can discourage an attacker as he would much rather his kidnapping not involve resistance. People who fight back don't make for easy-to-control victims: traffickers don't want that!_
Those who suspect that human trafficking is taking place in their midst can report their observations by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at any time at: (888) 373-7888.
EasyLlama Will Help Your Company Steer Clear Of Human Trafficking Troubles
Never assume that your industry or company is immune to the blight of any form of human trafficking! US businesses are legally liable for damages to the victims if the company is proven to have profited from human trafficking directly — or indirectly (e.g. associating with other businesses that are mired in such crimes).
To help combat this problem at the American workplace, EasyLlama is introducing company-wide anti-human trafficking training. The program gives employees a comprehensive idea of what human trafficking is, how to spot the "red flags" of such activity around oneself, and how to report it to the proper authorities — all in fast, simple, and easy-to-digest modules designed for a mobile workforce.