It’s happening right here in America, on the streets, in local businesses, as well as behind closed doors. Human beings are bartered, bought, sold, branded, and smuggled to be used as slaves. It’s a $150 billon business for organized crime rings and terrorists. It’s a national crisis—and it’s growing.
They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay.
Many human trafficking victims are often in front of us in hotels, airplanes, nail salons, truck stops, in elder care centers ... they are held captive through coercion, then threats. Their “owners” threaten to harm or kill them, threaten to harm or kill their families or threaten to report and them and have them deported or jailed. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human slavery, with 1.5 million in North America.
Sex-trafficking is often the most common and most lucrative in the business of selling human beings. TED talk speaker Tony Talbott makes an incredibly disturbing summation about sex trafficking:
"It's all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it, you can sell a kilo of Heroin once; you can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”
The buyers are mostly men who believe or “choose” to believe all prostitutes want to be doing what they do, when in fact, many prostitutes are forced to act happy. If they don’t make the customer’s experience pleasant, their owners/pimps lose business and that may lead to a brutal beating just short of murder. Owners don’t want to kill their slaves if it can be avoided, as “the product” is needed for future sales.
Here is an excerpt from one survival story by a victim of sex-trafficking:
When I ran away, I was a walking target for traffickers and predators who look for damaged children: I had been abused, I was depressed and was in desperate need of help. It didn’t take long for traffickers to find me. Surprisingly it was a couple – a man and a woman – who found me on the streets of Washington D.C. They took me off of the streets where I was hungry and alone and brought me into their home where they fed me and seemed to care for me. That is, until they initiated me into the world of trafficking. They used me for a few months until they no longer needed me and then sold me to another trafficker. Right in our nation’s capitol, I was sold into trafficking to a man named Moses. Soon after buying me, Moses took me to New York City where he trafficked me for 8 years.
During my time on the streets of New York I was abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, addicted to drugs, jailed, and more all before I was 18 years old.
There are countless stories like the one above—some even worse. The people who buy young women, girls and boys, or who are receiving human beings as “gifts,” are often just as guilty as the pimps and sellers who will continue to meet that demand and will do so as long as that demand exists.
So what can we do? Well, the obvious would be not to buy human beings. Don’t buy sex. And if you are going seek a prostitute, then at minimum, pay attention. Learn the signs of human trafficking. Don’t expect a “prostitute” to tell you she’s being sold or beaten, and understand that abuse and torture can be occurring without it showing outwardly. Also, be aware that a captive prostitute is most likely not going to tell you she’s in danger, because if she gets caught she risks severe punishment. She knows you are essentially renting her from her owner, so why would she trust you? Make an anonymous report.
If you are hiring employees or any temporary help, take a few minutes to do some research about the company or the person being hired. If you see someone in a hotel, restaurant, salon … and your gut tells you something is off, it probably is. We can stop human slavery. Know what to look for and learn what to ask possible trafficking. These are small things we can do that can make a big difference. Here are some signs.
Human Trafficking Indicators
While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in prostitution
Questions to Ask
Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?
For additional information, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), which operates 24 hours, 7 days a week. Or you can call call 1-888-373-788 or text BeFree (233733). If you suspect any kind of human trafficking, you can also submit a tip. Visit: ICE.gov.
Abductors, pimps, organized crime rings and terrorists will continue to highly profit off of human beings through slavery. By taking action and sharing information, we become part of the solution.
Sign HERE: Tell U.S. law enforcement to crack down on $150 billion human trafficking epidemic