In 2014, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control reported that profit from human trafficking in the state surpassed that of drug dealing.
Drug dealers are abandoning drugs to sell people. The average cost of a slave globally is only $90, according to The Issue of Human Trafficking.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that the forced labor and human trafficking industry is lucrative to the tune of $150 billion worldwide.
In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex trafficking economy in the US ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, CO to $290 million in Atlanta, GA.
[Photo credit to Voices for Dignity]
How old are the children? Very young. Five and younger. Some clients like kids. About half of trafficking victims globally are under the age of 18, according to The Issue of Human Trafficking.
Also, the sex traffickers like kids. More than 2/3 of sex trafficked children are abused by their traffickers.
How do sex traffickers lure their victims? It varies. Teenage victims may become romantically involved with the trafficker, or are lured with promises of a job, such as dancing or modeling. Younger victims may be sold to traffickers by their parents or other family members.
From the PBS documentary The Storm Makers, about sex trafficking in Cambodia:
At the age of 16, Aya was sold to work as a maid in Malaysia. She was exploited and beaten and eventually ran away, only to be captured and raped. When she returns home with an infant son, she is just as poor as when she left.
Her mother greets her not with joy, but with anger that her daughter has come back with yet another mouth to feed instead of money.
“I should have died over there,” says Aya in a singsong, childlike voice that masks the horrors she endured.
Why don’t the victims try to run away? Because the trafficker usually knows where they’re from, and who their friends and family are. If the victim runs, the family pays. So the victims stay.
Why aren’t the traffickers prosecuted? Money. They work out financial deals with local police and authorities. Again from The Storm Makers:
Pou Houy, 52, is a successful trafficker who runs a recruitment agency in Phnom Penh and claims to have sold more than 500 girls. Shockingly outspoken and shameless, he expresses no remorse and sees himself as a smart businessman, a good provider and even a good Christian. Although his company has been accused of trafficking by the local media, he has never been investigated by the police and continues to recruit young and poor Cambodians to work abroad.Pou Houy’s enterprise relies on local recruiters, who bring him candidates from their rural communities. One of these is Ming Dy, who sold her own daughter and continues to supply Houy with new recruits from her village. She justifies her actions by claiming she has no other way to pay her bills.
WHERE DOES SEX TRAFFICKING HAPPEN?
The perception is often that sex trafficking is a third-world problem, but it occurs globally. The UN crime-fighting office announced in 2012 that 2.4 million people globally are victims of human trafficking at any given time, with 80% of them being used as sexual slaves.
Regions include Europe and Eurasia; south and central Asia; north, central, and south America; Canada; the Middle East and north Africa; sub-Saharan Africa; and India.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has received reports since 2007 of 14,588 sex trafficking cases inside the United States. From January to June 2015, almost 3000 cases were reported in the US this year. Here is a partial graphic, with the full graphic available at the NHTRC website.
Earlier this year, ABC News did a special report on sex trafficking in the United States. Here is the video (11 min.):
NEW CHALLENGES AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP
The internet is contributing both to sex trafficking, and to the battle against it. Aid organizations are listed below.
However, a new trend of children being forced to perform sexual acts, to be broadcast globally, is a result of growing internet availability. The anti-trafficking movement must be vigilant and innovative to keep up with traffickers.
Attempts at lawmaking are growing, but due to issues of shame and fear of retribution, victims may not press charges against traffickers and owners.
Also, economic hardship is a factor. Wherever deprivation and poverty exist, so does desperation, which often results in keeping victims cycling in and out of forced sexual slavery. PTSD is common and makes it harder for the victim to see any hope of a better life.
Finding work after recovery from sexual slavery is a challenge. Following the Academy-Award-winning documentary Born Into Brothels in 2004, work began in Kolkata, India, on Hope House, a safe residence for women and young girls coming out of the red-light district and in need of safe, legal ways to earn money and support themselves and their families.
There are organizations and individuals working to combat traffickers and rescue victims. A good resource is http://www.humantrafficking.org.
Some of the organizations include:
- The Polaris Project
- Amnesty International
- Human Rights Watch