Human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking has become a popular topic on television, movies, and social media; however, much of what is presented is a skewed view rather than the true picture of sex trafficking in the United States. Sex trafficking in the United States is often presented as an international crime. It is viewed as strangers kidnapping White women and children to be taken across seas or women brought from other countries to be forced into prostitution in the United States. While these crimes do occur, this is the minority of cases. First, strangers are only responsible for 9% of sex trafficking in the U.S. Immediate family (36%) and boyfriends (27%) are responsible for most sex trafficking.1 Second, most of the sex trafficking in the U.S. falls under the category of Domestic Human Trafficking. Domestic Human Trafficking can take many forms, but the end result is an individual being forced into sexual servitude with their liberty, safety, humanity, dignity, and choice taken from them. Here are some common examples of Domestic Human Trafficking:
Any of the above situations can and often do lead to forced pornography and selling of the individuals to other “pimps,” often across state lines. The victim is often provided with drugs, given under the guise of care or fun, but in reality used to further maintain control over the victim. The victim becomes increasingly dependent on the trafficker as they are further isolated from support systems and normal life. The victim is taught to believe that they have no value beyond providing sex, would be rejected by anyone they turned to, and need the trafficker for food, shelter, protection, and drugs. The trafficker may additionally blackmail the victim with threats of disclosing what “they have done” to their family or threaten the victim with increased violence and/or harm to their loved ones. The victim’s fears of others are often reinforced when they are arrested for prostitution or possession of drugs and treated as a common criminal. The victim may try to reach out for help and be rejected because of a criminal history of prostitution or because of their drug addiction. Each of these incidents is proof to the victim that the trafficker is right and they give-up seeking a way out. Unfortunately, sex trafficking victims often have a very short life, with high incidents of murder, suicide, and drug overdose.
Despite the sad and helpless tone of this narrative, there is hope! There are agencies and organizations across the nation which provide services to victims of human trafficking. These organizations can help victims escape, provide safe housing, and offer legal and mental health services. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking please reach out for help. You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 for options. You can also make a real difference for victims by spreading accurate awareness or donating your time or money. Visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org or www.traffick911.com for information and ways to help.