WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that subjects men, women, and children to coercion or abduction for the purpose of exploitation. Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines ‘human trafficking’ as:
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
According to the Protocol, consent is irrelevant where any of the means set forth above have been used and that a situation may be considered trafficking if it involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of the child for the purpose of exploitation even if the means set forth above have not been used. Proof of force, fraud, or coercion are not required for prosecution under federal mandates for minors under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex.
The Action, Means, Purpose (AMP) model is often used to describe human trafficking:
According to the International Labor Organization, exploitation includes:
All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict
The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances
The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties
Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children
Work done by children below the minimum age for admission to employment.
WHO ARE TRAFFICKERS?
TRAFFICKERS DO NOT FOLLOW A STANDARD PROFILE
Be male or female, family members, and/or friends
Appear to be affluent and/or valuable members of a community
Exploit vulnerable persons for profit or personal gain
Use a variety of techniques to exploit men, women, and children in exploitation and commercial sex trades such as prostitution, domestic servitude, factory or migrant agricultural work
Be associated with international organized crime networks or small criminal networks
Employ recruiters who work to recruit persons for traffickers, and are persons known and trusted by the victims
TARGETING AND RECRUITING
Traffickers may systematically target vulnerable children by frequenting locations where youth congregate, including malls, schools, bus and train stations, and group homes. Traffickers also recruit through Facebook and other internet sites and use peers or classmates who befriend and groom the target. Often, traffickers will create a seemingly loving and caring relationship with their victim in order to establish trust, dependence, and allegiance, thus making their target even more vulnerable. One of the most common variations of this is a romantic relationship. Young victims are also lured into exploitation and forced labor through psychological manipulation, drugs, and/or violence.
COMMON RECRUITING LOCATIONS INCLUDE:
High schools and junior high schools
Courtrooms and hallways of court buildings
Group homes and homeless shelters
Restaurants and bars
Foster homes and halfway houses
COMMONLY USED STRATEGIES TO RECRUIT YOUTH INCLUDE:
Purposeful targeting of vulnerable youth and minors
Warmth, affection, and gifts
Promises of a better life
Exploitation via technology such as social media websites and other online platforms
Victims of sex trafficking share common risk factors, including child sexual abuse, parental neglect, parental drug abuse, emotional and/or physical abuse by a family member, and poverty. Further risk factors include homelessness, drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, history of prior abuse or neglect, isolation, gang involvement, bad history with child welfare services, history of victimization, low self-esteem or a need for validation, and criminal history or current involvement in criminal activities.
Human rights are the basic things that all human beings are entitled to in order to survive and develop. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” The UNCRC sets out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of children, and includes four main principles:
Non-discrimination (Article 2): Governments must ensure that all children and young people enjoy their rights. No-one should suffer discrimination.
Best interests of the child (Article 3): When governments make decisions that affect children and young people, they must think about the best interests of children first.
The right to life, survival and development (Article 6): This article is related to the right to survival and to development.
The view of the child (Article 12): Children and young people have a right to participate in all matters affecting them, and those views should be given due weight.
The UNCRC is important because it emphasizes that children and young people have the same human rights as everyone else, and that they are especially susceptible to the environment and prevailing conditions in which they live. Children and young people have not always been accepted as the holders of rights, but they require protection and should be empowered. Human trafficking violates a child’s right to be protected, be raised in a safe environment, and access education. Rights within the UNCRC are:
Universal: The same for everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, politics, etc.
Indivisible: They are all important and interdependent.
Inalienable: All human beings have rights and they cannot be taken away.
Unconditional: You do not have to behave in a certain way or qualify for rights. You get them just by being alive.
Children may suffer from serious illness, permanent injury, harsh working conditions, lack of medical care, violence, psychological issues, health repercussions, substance abuse, and separation from families and home communities. Complex trauma occurs after exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure. Trauma has lasting impact on youth and their relationship formation, brain development, and way of thinking about the world. The psychological impact of exploitation includes,
Anxiety and anxiety disorders
Inability to trust
Dissociation and dissociative disorders
Hopelessness and helplessness
Suicidal ideation and attempts
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Disconnection from feelings and flat affect
Fatalism and rage
Trauma bonds are formed from abuse, rewards, punishment, acts and threats of violence, and alternating violence and kindness. Trauma can shape youth’s perceptions of the way people treat each other, leading to the normalization of negative and abusive relationships. It can also impact brain development and cause youth to struggle to regulate emotions and think through decisions. It can shape the expectations youth have for their own lives, for example, youth might think about the world as an unsafe place, which becomes normalized and expected.
IDENTIFYING VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING
THE CHALLENGE OF IDENTIFICATION
It is often difficult to identify victims of human trafficking because of frequent movement and lack of contact with social and other public services. 82% of service providers affirm that some victims are sharing with their agency that they have concerns about contacting the police, and 70% of service providers believe that victims have concerns about going to court for a matter related to their abuser or the offender. This adversely impacts victims’ willingness to assert their legal rights in civil, criminal, and immigration court.
BARRIERS TO SELF-IDENTIFICATION INCLUDE:
Frequent movement: may not be in one place long enough to form social connections
Distrust of service providers: generalized impressions and perceived judgmental attitudes
Lies and false stories: may be self-generated or trained to tell lies, fake names, fake social security number, and change to physical identity
Rarely come into contact with institutional systems that are designed to help them
Low likelihood of multiple encounters within institutions or through outreach efforts
Limited familial support and limited contact with family/friends
False promises of protection and love
Loyalty or traumatic attachment to traffickers
Lack of resources available while living on the streets
Normalization of sex trafficking as survival on the streets
Increased fear and distrust of adults
Feeling that no-one will understand
Shame about their past
Dependency on the pimp after years of control
Fear of judgment from peers
Lack of access to money to afford a means of survival
Captivity or confinement
Use and threat of violence
Interactions are monitored or controlled by the pimp
Fear of physical retaliation, death, or arrest
Use and threat of reprisals against loved ones, including against children or family members
SIGNS OF EXPLOITATION
History of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
Involvement in relationships with older adults
Unexplained absences from school or inability to attend school on a regular basis
Sudden changes in usual attire (such as expensive clothing, jewelry, or cell phone), behavior, or relationships
Has more (and/or more expensive) material possessions
Chronically runs away from home
Record of arrests related to commercial sex, gang activity, or other status offenses
Acts fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous, or paranoid
Defers to another person to speak for him/her, especially in interactions with authority figures
Is not in possession of his/her own identification documents
Unable or unwilling to give a local address or information about parents/guardians, or lives with “parents" that are not biological or legal guardians
Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites, or photos of the youth have been placed online for advertising purposes
A man in public with a group of girls/boys (red flag: girls are all of different races, or of a couple of different races to avoid attracting attention)
Left in the car while his/her pimp eats in a restaurant or engages in other activities
Avoids eye contact and looks down while speaking
In a rush to leave the foster care home, group home, or shelter
Wears sexy clothes and lots of makeup
Comes home late, tired, and may be sick
Gets mad or upset when on her period and will try to end it quickly
Appears to have been deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities
Branding or tattoos that indicate ownership
Evidence of sexually transmitted diseases
Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse
COMMON WORK AND LIVING CONDITIONS:
Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
LACK OF CONTROL:
Has few or no personal possessions
Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves
Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, bank account, or identification
Carries one backpack with all or several key possessions in that bag
TIPS FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS
Be patient: It can take anywhere from months to years for a child to process her experiences and actually exit CSEC and establish an independent stable life.
Build trust: Expect lies and canned stories. It might take several encounters to build trust.
Consistency & reliability: Victims have been abandoned, manipulated, and lied to by adults. It is your role to prove through consistency that they can rely on you for support.
TRUE STORY 1
I am thirteen years old. I was only a baby when my father abandoned me, my severely disabled brother, and my mother. My mom struggled for years to care for us and slowly slipped into mental illness, suffering from multiple breakdowns. One morning when I was eight, I woke up and could not find her. She had left for good. Today, the authorities believe that she is dead and that my father has left the country. Nobody was found to care for us, so my brother was placed in a care home and I have not seen him. I was placed into the foster care system. It’s difficult to believe everything that I have been through and all the challenges that I have overcome. My sexual life started when a caregiver raped me. I never told anyone. I became angry and lost trust in adults. I was shifted from family to family and then eventually from group home to group home because I was rebellious. But in my heart, I have always been a good person and wanted the best for others and myself.
In one of the homes I lived in, I became friends with an older girl who began to tell me about working for a pimp. She told me of all the cool experiences she had and how empowered she felt taking money from men. She convinced me one night to run away with her. We were only half a block down the street when her pimp drove up and we jumped in the car. He was very kind to me and told me how pretty I was. We got high together with some other guys from his gang. I slept with one of the guys that night. After a few days of enjoying my freedom and partying, the main guy asked me if I wanted to earn some extra funds. My friend told me that after a time or two it was not that scary. So, I agreed. I also thought it would be nice to have somebody a phone call away anytime I want to escape from my group home. That’s how I got started.
My latest placement was in the Daughter Project Girls’ Home. It was different. I felt safe and I understood from the first day that they exist for girls like me, prostitutes. I have decided to not run away and have begun to go to a new school where people do not know my past. I was even baptized at a church to cleanse me of my past life. I just want to be a normal girl. Someday I want to have a good job and help my brother. I help new girls who come into the home and encourage them not to go back to the streets. That’s my story.
TRUE STORY 2
I have decided that someday I’m going to help girls like me. My adventure as a prostitute only lasted two months in the middle of my junior year of high school. I don’t think I was the typical victim. My parents were not poor, and I lived in a middle-class neighborhood. My mom was a pretty well-known local personality and although she and my dad are divorced, we all had good relationships for the most part. My dad and I did used to fight a lot, however, and I lost respect for him. I was excelling at school and was on the honor roll and the dean’s list. I played sports and was the president of a club on campus. The start of my junior year I started hanging out with a girl that became my new best friend after my old best friend moved away. She had a more chaotic life and lived with her mom who struggled with drug addiction.
We began to spend lots of time together and I cut school sometimes to hang out at her house. We loved hip hop and rap music and would dance together. I knew the lyrics to all the best songs and fell in love with the music. I tried pot a few times and kept cutting school. My grades began to move more to the B range. My dad was not happy with my new friend. He told me I could no longer hang out with her. This made me rebel and in just a few months I became a totally different person. I was loving the gangster life and music. Then, my friend asked me if I wanted to meet her pimp. At first, I was shocked, as I did not know that she had a pimp. She said it was cool to have a pimp and showed me all of the nice perfume and jewelry he bought for her. She said she wanted to be his best girl or his down girl. She said she loved him and would do anything for him. I was so angry with my dad one day after we fought that I immediately texted her that I wanted to meet her pimp. He came over to her house and we smoked pot. He was so cool relaxed. He dressed, walked and talked just like the musicians that I idolize. I wanted to be his. He only told me his gang name, it was so cool. I thought to myself that I was a part of his crew. I was also competitive, and I remember thinking that I was going to become his best girl instead of my fried. I am way prettier than her, I thought. I was actually the one who suggested that I turn tricks for him. He was like, wow girl, and I was so proud to be so bad. He took sexy pictures of me one day, placed adds on the dark web, and started arranging things for me.
Only a week or so in, he told me It that I could make lots of money if I travelled up north. I was scared but wanted to please him. I thought about running away and it seemed like a good way to get back at my dad. So, I agreed. One of his gang members picked me up. I only had a small bag. He dropped me off at different hotels, gave me some meth and told me to take it if I got scared or bummed out. I didn’t take it and just kept it in my purse. On the third day, I met a guy at the hotel who came into my room, and ask me my price, and then arrested me and took me to jail. I remember calling my dad and how completely shocked he was that I was so far away and that I had a pimp. He was so angry. They transferred me back down south, but the judge wasn’t lenient. Because I had meth, he charged me and gave me the maximum. Even then, I still loved and feared my pimp and would not give up his gang name or location. I was loyal.
The time spent in juvenile hall, however, allowed me to clear my head. I thought about my parents, brothers, and sister and knew that I had a great family that loved me. I decided not to go back. I was so stupid and so caught up in the lifestyle, the music, and the idea of being a part of a group and having a pimp care for me. Now I have graduated and will try to help girls not make the mistakes I made.