To many, the problem of human trafficking seems like a distant dilemma, something that happens in other parts of the world to people who are far removed from us. Perhaps it is because the thought of human trafficking is so vile that we cannot stomach the thought of it happening in America, we imagine that it doesn’t take place on our own doorstep. But it does. Thousands of men, women and children are trafficked every year, right here. DeliverFund is helping these victims end human trafficking, escape their suffering, and to lead better lives following their dreams.
The Staggering Statistics of Human Trafficking in America
Human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, or obtaining a person, for the purpose of sex acts or forced labor, by force, fraud or coercion. While many people may be aware of the illegal trafficking of humans across the border, forced into indentured servitude or prostitution, they might not be as aware that human trafficking takes place in nearly every city in America. It is estimated that there are somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 victims of commercial sex slavery in the United States today. 96% of them are female, and 50% of them are children.
Human Trafficking Takes Places Right Under Our Noses
The International Labor Organization estimates that only 0.04% of human trafficking cases are identified, while the rest–an enormous share–happen without any notice. And while the impulse is to believe that it happens somewhere other than here, it is in our own backyard. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that the most common places for calls come from California, Texas, and Florida, places that are as American as apple pie, but they’re certainly not restricted to border states. Sting operations have found human trafficking rings in the South, the Midwest, the Northwest, New England–everywhere in America.
Human Trafficking is Far More Common Than Most Believe
While many of the victims of human trafficking in America are brought in from other countries, many more are runaways, kidnap victims, or even held captive by their parents or guardians. The United Nations believes that 20 to 40 million people are trafficked every year across the world, and the United States is not immune. Globally, the human trafficking trade brings in $150 billion per year, nearly two thirds of that coming from the commercial sex trade.
Who Are The Victims of Human Trafficking in America?
In America, many victims are held in captivity in homes, hotels, or businesses. The average sex slave in America is between 12 and 14 years old when they are enslaved. That slavery can look like many different things. Some women and girls work as prostitutes on the street or in nightclubs. Others are held in gang houses, while still others are held in everyday suburban homes. In all of these cases, human trafficking victims are held in fear, trapped by force, fraud or coercion.
How Victims Escape Human Trafficking
To understand how to end human trafficking, we must understand how these victims escape their slavery. To people who have never been in the situation, it may be easy to ask why these women and girls don’t simply walk away: if a girl is being prostituted on the street, for example, why can’t she run? There are many problems with this. The first is that the trafficker while the trafficker is not necessarily holding the victim in chains, they may have threatened them in some other way. Children are often told that the trafficker will kill the child’s loved ones if they try to escape. Mothers are told their children will be killed. There is also a dependency that traffickers create for the victim, whereby the victim needs the trafficker to stay alive. Often this is through drug addiction, but it can also be because the victim doesn’t know where they are or how to survive on their own. Traffickers will even create suspicion among victims, where the women can’t trust each other.
Some women and girls still manage to escape human trafficking on their own, finding ways to run and get help. Some ask for help when they’ve been arrested for sex work. Others will be able to send the occasional text message, email, or phone call.
The more common way for women to be freed, however, is through the work of law enforcement, citizens, and non-profit organizations like DeliverFund. These people work to end human trafficking by going after the traffickers and their networks. More and more often these sex rings are being run at least partially online, and cybersleuthing is tracking down both the traffickers and their customers. When freed, these women and girls must be cared for and that’s where organizations like DeliverFund help them to get back to a normal life and to thrive. At DeliverFund, we call these survivors “Thrivers”.
The Lasting Effects of Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking are not free of their torment as soon as they get away from their captors. For many of these victims, they have long-lasting problems associated with their time enslaved. Trafficking usually involves prolonged and repeated trauma, and the survivors are afflicted with the physical and mental anguish that comes from that pain.
Many of these victims have short and long-term physical injuries that result from their abuse, torture, exploitation, and rape. Disabilities are common. In many cases, captors give their victims alcohol and drugs to get them to comply, and the victims end up with lasting addictions or prolonged withdrawals. Children may experience stunted growth, while adults can develop disorders like anorexia and bulimia. All victims are subject to sexually transmitted diseases and are at a great risk of HIV infection.
Many more effects of human trafficking are mental. Victims exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, alienation, disorientation, aggression, and more psychological disturbances. Victims may experience self-loathing, lack of self worth, and suicidal ideation.
How Human Trafficking Victims Rebuild Their Lives
Once human trafficking victims are rescued, DeliverFund helps them to rebuild their lives through a support system and other services. This is essential because many of these women and girls are in such dire needs that they return to a life of sex work because it’s the only way they know how to survive, or because they are dependent on drugs. Simply setting them free is not a solution; they have to be cared for and nurtured back into a regular life again.
This reorientation into society comes in the form of making sure that the victims have access to housing, healthcare, substance abuse recovery programs, therapy, and the education needed to help them build a new life for themselves. This takes the efforts of medical doctors, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and volunteers who care for the victim and guide them back to full health and happiness.
It’s a difficult road. These women and girls have been through horrifying trauma. But it’s through the help of willing individuals who are ready to fight for these victims, as well as through the victims’ own will and determination, that lives are able to be rebuilt and futures secured. Are you ready to do your part to end human trafficking?