According to the International Labor Organization and UNICEF there are about 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. 68% are trapped in forced labor, 26% are children and 55% are women and girls. Forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. Human trafficking is not a developing world problem. It is our problem. Unfortunately, the United States is a source and transit point, as well as one of the leading destinations for child sexual exploitation. It does not have to be this way.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center defines human trafficking, as “a form of modern-day slavery. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.”
In 2015, 16,678 hotline calls were made to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and 4,168 cases were reported in the United States. In 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 1,437 individuals for human trafficking and identified nearly 400 victims across the United States. Obtaining information on state and local enforcement of traffickers is more difficult, as many states have been slow to respond to the growing problem. Worse than that, many states and localities do not understand sex trafficking and continue to prosecute those being trafficked for prostitution and related crimes.
According to Polaris, a leading nonprofit that works to help survivors of trafficking:
After escaping from months or years of victimization, survivors of sex and labor trafficking often need a wide array of services that recognize the unique trauma they have experienced. In order to rebuild their lives, survivors may be in immediate need of housing, counseling, medical care, legal advocacy, job training, interpretation, immigration relief, substance abuse recovery, or food and clothing assistance. Yet, trafficking survivors regularly face significant challenges in accessing these services. In many areas of the United States, specialized trafficking programs may not exist, may be underfunded, or may struggle to meet the high demand for services and assistance.
We hope that the recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month will bring attention and education on this worldwide problem, as well an increase in resources and organizations to aid survivors.