January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It is a good time to reflect on the dangers of human trafficking.
What Is Human Trafficking and Where Does It Exist?
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, and it occurs in all 50 states and around the world. Human trafficking can include:
- Sex trafficking
- Domestic servitude
- Organ harvesting
- Any other form of forced labor
How Do Human Traffickers Find Their Victims?
When seeking victims, traffickers typically exploit vulnerabilities. For children, those vulnerabilities commonly include running away from home, unrestricted access to social media and the internet, and homes where sexual abuse or domestic violence occurs.
Child trafficking victims tend to be young and are often part of the welfare system. For instance, the average age of a child sex trafficking victim is 12-14 years, according to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. About 60-70% of trafficking victims are part of the child welfare system, according to the nonprofit Thorn.
Trafficking victims also have short lifespans. The average lifespan of a trafficking victim who is not rescued is 7-10 years after their capture by a trafficker, according to Together Freedom.
For adults, vulnerabilities include substance addiction, poverty, a lack of support networks and a naivety that makes them susceptible to false promises. Human traffickers commonly use physical or emotional abuse to control their victims. While a victim’s freedom is not always limited, traffickers exert such control that the victim’s fear of the trafficker is too great to escape and seek help.
Grooming in Human Trafficking
Grooming the victim is a part of human trafficking. Usually, the victim is groomed by someone who exploits their vulnerabilities.
For instance, many victims are groomed through online sites. The trafficker makes false promises, uses deception, and sends gifts that are viewed by the victim as signs of love or companionship.
Social media sites play a role in human trafficking, since they make it easier for human traffickers to find and exploit victims. Although any social media app can be used for grooming, some of the more dangerous social media apps include:
- Bigo Live
Ideally, parents should closely monitor their child’s use of social media sites and the internet. Parents should also providing rules for acceptable online behavior to protect the child from traffickers.
Children should be taught to never accept a friend request from someone they don’t know personally. Often, traffickers will create fake social media profiles that mirror a child’s interests as a part of the grooming process.
Human Traffickers Are Everywhere and Not Easy to Recognize
Human traffickers are among us in society and are not always easy to recognize. An example is “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, who pled guilty for her role in a sex trafficking case.
Some human traffickers share common characteristics. One Human Trafficking Hotline study surveyed 25 former pimps in the Chicago area and found that:
- 88% experienced physical abuse growing up.
- 76% experienced sexual assault as a child.
- 88% came from homes where domestic violence was present.
- 84% experienced drug and alcohol abuse in their home.
Education Is Key to Protecting Children and Adults from Human Traffickers
Both children and adults need to be educated on the current trends and dangers of human trafficking. Hearing about human trafficking from someone other than their parents is helpful. Often, children are more willing to listen to human trafficking’s hazards when it comes from field experts.
During Human Trafficking Prevention Month, now is the time for children and adults to be educated about human trafficking. Finding a reputable non-profit organization that provides relevant and high-quality education on human trafficking is a useful way to collect more information.
There is currently a nationwide campaign to educate everyone on the dangers of human trafficking called “Get In The Fight,” which is part of America’s Future Project Defend & Protect Our Children. This organization provides education and training across the country for individuals, parents, professionals, first responders, and community groups to increase public awareness of human trafficking. Their in-person training programs are taught by experts who provide valuable insight into many different aspects of human trafficking, with a focus on preventing child exploitation and trafficking.
Take the Time to Increase Your Awareness of Human Trafficking Signs during Human Trafficking Prevention Month
This January, take the time to increase your awareness of human trafficking during Human Trafficking Prevention Month. By knowing the signs of human trafficking, it will be easier to recognize and report it.
If you suspect that human trafficking is occurring in your community, report it to local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.