Understanding Human Trafficking

Modern day slavery, or human trafficking, is more prevalent than many realize.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act”. Women and girls forced into prostitution to the profit of a trafficker; men and children coerced into working in hazardous conditions under debt bondage and unfair wages… These are just a few examples of the different types of trafficking that exist in the world today. But how can we really understand human trafficking and how it affects our neighborhood when it seems like such a far-off issue? As your awareness grows, the urgency to act intensifies. Human trafficking is a complex issue and there are many factors that contribute to it. But, as we lean in to learn more and expand our understanding, we can start to be a part of the growing movement to end it once and for all. In our neighborhoods and around the world, we can agree that trafficking has no place in our world.

This article will cover:

  1. The Impact of Trafficking in Your Area
  2. Who is Vulnerable
  3. How Trafficking Happens
  4. Organizations on the Frontlines

Context and perspective are key in understanding trafficking’s impact in your area and what you can do about it. These will shape your next steps. 

1. the Impact of Trafficking in Your Area

Human trafficking may seem like a far-away issue that occurs in “other” places, but the sad reality is that trafficking can and does take place everywhere. It is not exclusive to developing countries or dark, back alleys. The fact of the matter is, every country in the world, and every state in the United States, has problems with human trafficking. The first step to learning how to stop human trafficking is understanding the impact in your area. Click below to see what the stats are in your state and country.

2. Who is vulnerable

Preventing trafficking before it ever happens is key in gaining ground in the fight to end it. In order to develop or support preventative measures, we must understand where, how, and to whom it’s most likely to happen. 

Anyone can be the victim of trafficking, but understanding what makes a person more vulnerable is critical in preventing it before it ever happens. We encourage you to consider which of these might be impacting your community and how they are (or are not) being addressed. [Click each for more info]

Being a child automatically implies vulnerability. As children, we look to trusted adults in our lives for guidance, safety, and unconditional love. When adults take advantage of this power in a child’s life, the unimaginable can become reality. This is especially true for kids and teens who identify as LGBTQIA+. Oftentimes, traffickers can be relatives, friends, or trusted adults. It’s important to remember that, by law, any person under 18 who is involved in sex work is considered a victim of trafficking.

In addition to being underage, foster children can be targeted because of the lack of stability in their lives. In looking for stability or consistency, teens in the foster care system may fall into the traps of older teens/young adults who wish to exploit them.

Additionally, the lack of support for the child welfare system and the overwhelming need for these services creates gaps in care for these children. When a teenager turns 18, and is therefore ineligible for foster care support, the vulnerability to trafficking is intensified. In fact, 60% of survivors/victims of trafficking surveyed from 40 cities around the US, indicated that they had once been in the foster care system.

According to Love 146, “Children from culturally and linguistically diverse communities are more than 2x more likely to experience sex trafficking as children who identify as white.” No matter your personal beliefs, we can all agree that children should be protected from the horrors of trafficking of any form, especially sex trafficking. Undocumented workers and their families are specifically vulnerable to exploitation since they are unlikely to reach out to authorities and police for assistance. This can apply to any country and any migrant group, especially in areas devastated by conflict, political unrest, and the like.

Those who are at an economic disadvantage are more likely to be manipulated and exploited by those in a position of power. This could look like working for unfair wages and/or without benefits, being forced into servitude (i.e. domestic servitude or sexual exploitation), or debt bondage. It’s hard to believe, but this type of trafficking DOES happen in developed countries like the US! When people are desperate for basic necessities, they are a target for traffickers and predators.

This by no means is an exhaustive list of vulnerable people groups. We hope that those listed have given you an idea of what types of situations increase the risk of human trafficking. So, whether you live in a big city or small town, be challenged to think critically and identify what vulnerabilities are affecting your area, region, or state. Vulnerabilities are present wherever people are.

3. How Trafficking Happens

Movies and pop culture often display trafficking as kidnapping a girl, taking her to a foreign country, and keeping her in a prison-like room with no contact with the outside world. While it is possible, this is an unrealistic representation about how human trafficking actually most often happens. In reality, trafficking is not so black and white. Survivors have said that in the midst of their abuse, they didn’t actually know they would be considered a victim of trafficking.

When you take the vulnerable people groups listed above, you can see that traffickers develop very specific ways to manipulate and control their victims. Most victims of sex trafficking are trafficked by a “boyfriend” or family member, who they trust. Especially for those who are looking for stability in a life of chaos, this is particularly enticing. 

False job offers and fraudulent activity is another main method that traffickers use. With the rise of online job advertisements, it has never been easier for scammers and traffickers to lure victims with the promise of great work. Whether they are claiming exotic employment in a new place or targeting vulnerable people in their local area, these false advertisements are becoming a more common tactic for traffickers to use. This can be especially common for migrant workers or domestic help. Because they are in a new country and often don’t speak the language and may not fully understand their rights, these individuals are often exploited as traffickers withhold legal documents, and sometimes pay, making it difficult for them to leave or fight the injustice.

Click here to learn more about the rise in online trafficking.

4. Organizations Working on the Frontlines

Now that you’ve gained some perspective and insight on how trafficking is impacting your community,  who is vulnerable, and how it happens, it’s time to see which organizations are meeting your community’s most pressing needs. 

To start, sit down with the Missions Team at your church to learn about local nonprofits and charities. What you may come to realize is that your church is already actively partnering alongside some organizations. If you are a church leader yourself, check out our resources for churches! 

Explore nonprofits on Guidestar or Charity Navigator. Connect with any local nonprofit networks who are active near you. Contact your local CASA representatives to learn about the foster care system in your area.

Oftentimes, supporting the needs of your community through the church or other outreach programs can have a major impact on mitigating vulnerability of targeted groups. Becoming a CASA volunteer to stand up for children in the foster care system, serving with organizations that are addressing food insecurity and homelessness, or mentoring kids and teens through church ministries… finding the intersection of your interests and the needs of the community is a big step to ensuring those around you are safe and loved! 

Are you still unsure of where to begin? Click below to find anti-trafficking organizations working in your area!
How to stop human trafficking

Once you’ve discovered which organizations are actively serving your community, reach out. Give them a call, take a tour, meet their team, learn about their efforts, ask about their needs and opportunities for involvement. You could provide resources, financial or tangible, serve with them or join in on their outreach efforts. You could rally the support of businesses or churches around them. Be an advocate for them and their work. Raise awareness for the issue of human trafficking and how these organizations are in the fight!

This is a lot of information! As you process through all of the information above and start thinking about how your local area is impacted by trafficking, you are most likely fired up to do something. Along with the resources listed above, we’ve created an easy-to-use PDF to keep track of information you’re learning about your area, about trafficking, and about your passions and giftings. With this, you will be equipped to take action in this fight! 

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