A common misconception about human trafficking in America is that “it doesn’t happen where I live.” Everyone likes to think that they live in a safe neighborhood within the confines of a nice town so they have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, human trafficking happens everywhere in this country, and it’s not getting any better.
There are currently between 100,000-150,000 victims being used as commercial sex slaves, some of them may have been exploited in your hometown.
The goal of this article isn’t to scare anyone, but to bring awareness to something that is extremely important in today’s world. Human trafficking in the US is a serious issue, and these are the top three states with the highest rate per capita.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act
The TVPA of 2000 determined how to prosecute human traffickers, prevent them from abducting people, and help the victims. It established human trafficking as a federal crime and created the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons which publishes a report each year on the state of human trafficking in the United States.
Human Trafficking Cases Reported by State
Here’s a list of the top three states:
1. Nevada – 7.50 per 100,000
2. Mississippi – 4.99 per 100,000
3. Florida – 4.08 per 100,000
While these three states have the highest rates per capita are California, Texas, and Florida with the highest number of cases.
California: 1,507 cases in 2019
Texas: 1,080 cases in 2019
Florida: 896 cases in 2019
Why these states over the rest? Why are people in these states more vulnerable to human trafficking?
The state has taken many measures and precautions to limit and prevent human trafficking over the years, but the sex and sin of the state have made it all too easy for sex trafficking to occur. Prostitution and the solicitation of sex is legal in 10 out of 16 counties in Nevada. It must be conducted in licensed brothels, but this opens the door for human traffickers to find young women who may not be able to find work and cannot work in the brothel either.
Another prime reason for the high trafficking rate is Las Vegas is that, while brothels and prostitution is illegal in Vegas, 90 percent of it happens here. The city has been pinned as a hub for child prostitution as well. It’s believed that the area contains many high-risk conditions, such as access to drugs and alcohol, a 24-hour lifestyle, and a sexualized entertainment industry. All of these factors combined fuel the sex trafficking industry and especially target minors.
In 2020, Mississippi experienced as many as 5 victims per 100,000 residents, which is 175 percent higher than the average across the country. The same question exists: with all the human trafficking in the United States, why here?
One reason is the economy of the state. Mississippi is deemed the poorest state in the country, with a poverty rate of 19.6 percent. Human traffickers prey on people who are struggling and capitalize on their desperation. A lot of the time, these individuals will do anything they can to provide for their families, take care of elderly parents, and try to make a better life for themselves.
Traffickers will manipulate women into believing that they’re going to help them, but they’ll gradually work them into the sex trade. Child poverty is a big issue here as well, and with a rate of 27.8 percent, it’s also the highest in the United States. This again can lead to more kids dropping out of school, abandoning the household, and ending up in the sex or labor trade.
There has been a case of sex trafficking reported in every county in Florida. Of all the human trafficking in America, Florida is the only state that can say that. The biggest problem here is that one in five of those cases is a child. It’s gotten to the point where the state even teaches trafficking prevention to their students.
It’s believed that Florida is such a melting pot for human trafficking activity because of the economy, but in a much different way than Mississippi. The tourism industry, like Vegas, is booming in Florida, and that means that more people are traveling here to party and have a good time. Unfortunately, some people have a twisted idea of what a “good time” consists of.
Signs of Human Trafficking
Preventing human trafficking starts in the community. It starts with people like you who are familiar with the people you see every day. You can make a difference by getting involved and identifying some of these signs.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Has this person begun to withdraw from normal activities such as family outings, sporting events, and church attendance?
- Has the child stopped attending school?
- Have you noticed a dramatic change in behavior?
- Does the person seem disoriented or confused, possibly due to drugs or intoxication?
- Do you notice visible bruises in various stages of healing?
- Does this person seem fearful or timid around you?
- Does the individual suddenly appear malnourished or like they’re losing weight?
- Does it seem like this person is saying only what someone else wants them to say?
- Do they appear to be living in an unstable environment with inhumane boundaries?
Of course, not everything on this list indicates human trafficking, and there are many factors beyond this. if you notice enough of these signs, we would suggest paying close attention to that person, but be sure not to put yourself at risk.
The history of human trafficking in the United States dates back to a time when we didn’t have so many resources at our disposal. For trafficking to be as widespread as it is today, it almost feels like we’ve failed. This is especially true for our women and children who are prime targets for human trafficking.
The good news is, we can each make a difference. Learn more about how you can help join our fight against human trafficking in America!