So far in 2016, there have been 1,654 cases of human trafficking reported in the United States, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). It’s estimated that one-third of those are cases of child trafficking.
Human trafficking is big business—generating more than $32 billion globally each year—and it doesn’t only happen in other places. It happens right here at home.
Human trafficking is not smuggling but slavery, involving clear-cut abuse of a human being for sex or labor. Sex trafficking occurs in a variety of venues, including brothels, fake massage parlors, truck stops, and strip clubs. Labor trafficking can include domestic work or toiling in small businesses, large farms, or factories.
From December 7, 2007, through March 31, 2016, the estimated number of victims with solid evidence of being trafficked was 26,107. If the 1-in-3 statistic holds, that means 8,700 of the victims were children.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) states that “1 in 5 runaways … in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.” That represents an increase over MCMEC’s 2014 estimate of 1 in 6 runaways.
The NHTRC breaks down trafficking into three basic components:
- The Act—inducing, recruiting, harboring, transporting, transferring, or providing people
- The Means—force, fraud, or coercion
- The Purpose—commercial sex or labor services
To help get a handle on this growing problem, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, the first federal law to address sex trafficking and labor trafficking in the United States. Since then, several additions have been made to further address the issue:
- In 2003, a federal civil right of action was enacted, allowing trafficking victims to sue their traffickers.
- A pilot program was begun to help minors who are survivors of human trafficking, along with grant programs to assist state and local law enforcement.
- New prevention strategies were added, such as requiring the government to provide information about workers’ rights to all people applying for work and student visas.
- And in 2013, programs were strengthened to ensure U.S. citizens do not purchase products made by victims of human trafficking and to prevent child marriage.
We can all be more aware of the issue and offer help. NHTRC presents these guidelines for recognizing the signs of human trafficking:
- Strange work or living conditions (inability to freely come and go, pay through tips only, etc.)
- Abnormal mood or behavior (fear, anxiety, depression)
- Poor physical health (signs of malnutrition or abuse)
- Lack of control (few personal possessions, no control of money or possessions)
If you see or suspect someone to be a victim of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to BeFree (233733).
BeAKidsHero™ is an initiative to educate parents, teachers and other caring adults around the globe about protecting the children in their lives from abuse and neglect. Founded by Child Advocate and Child Forensic Interviewer Ginger Kadlec, www.beakidshero.com spotlights child protection best practices and tips, as well as features a host of resources and information about issues related to child abuse awareness, prevention and intervention ranging from child sexual abuse facts and prevention to cyberbullying, sextortion and Internet safety. Parents are invited to participate in a free three-part video training series about protecting kids of all ages from sexual abuse. To enroll, visit www.sexualabusepreventionsystem.com.
The BeAKidsHero™ column on CW NEWS is released biweekly on Tuesdays.