Sex trafficking occurs when someone is forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Traffickers frequently target vulnerable people and use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the commercial sex industry. Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.
At the moment, human trafficking is considered a highly profitable industry because of the high demand and low risk associated with it. Lack of community awareness around the issue, comprehensive legislation, victim identification, resources and aftercare for victims are all factors that make the industry relatively low risk for traffickers.
Labor trafficking occurs similarly to sex trafficking: someone is forced or coerced into a situation where they are held in slave-like conditions or debt bondage working in agriculture, restaurants, construction, hotels and other work. Victims of labor trafficking are often subject to physical and sexual violence, isolation, inadequate food and no access to healthcare. Like sex trafficking, it is an issue that occurs everywhere in the world but is often overlooked and misunderstood.
A vulnerability is created through various mediums such as sexual abuse, poverty, gender, class, race, tragedy, natural disaster, low self-esteem, and lack of education on issues like human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking come from the U.S. and countries across the world
A pimp/trafficker comes into the picture and makes false promises, deceives, flat out lies and grooms a woman or child to enter the commercial sex trade. Another means is when a family will sell their child to a trafficker or when a parent(s) pimps out their own child. The grooming process can also start through an online interaction on popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
After being lured or forced into prostitution a victim can be exploited in multiple venues. Typical venues include residential brothels, escort services, online advertisements for prostitution or escort services, motels, street prostitution, bars/clubs and other businesses that use their business as a front for illegal activity.
Traffickers/pimps maintain control through psychologically breaking down a person to a point where they depend on the trafficker/pimp. They will isolate their victim from their old life or shame them into consenting. Physical and sexual violence are often used to maintain control and to deter a victim from attempting to flee the situation. Drugs and alcohol are another common means to create dependency on the trafficker/pimp. In simplest terms a trafficker/pimp will go to any extreme to ensure that they have complete control over someone.
A victim of trafficking will rarely seek help because they don’t know they are a victim or they’re too afraid of the consequences of leaving. When law enforcement understands the dynamics of trafficking they become essential in the process of getting a trafficking victim out of the situation. Community members and community organizations also become essential in the identification and reporting of human trafficking. But, many victims go unidentified and don’t receive the services they need to help them heal and move toward a brighter future.
The effects of being trafficked are extremely traumatic. Healing takes time and requires a highly individualized trauma-informed approach. An approach that is catered to each person helps surround each survivor with the opportunities and services necessary for transition into a healthy and hopeful future.