January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and the Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking is making a concerted effort to let this community know it is happening here.
According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second in organized crime only to illicit drugs. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. It is estimated that as many as 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking each year — and the average age is 13. Also, more than 80 percent of the suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated by law enforcement agencies between Jan. 2008 to June 2010 involved adult prostitution or the exploitation and forced prostitution of children.
Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people — runaway and homeless youth; those who are undocumented migrants; oppressed, marginalized, and/or impoverished groups and individuals. Traffickers specifically target individuals in these populations because they are vulnerable to recruitment tactics and methods of control such as drug addiction or intimidation with threats of being deported or harm to their families. They use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. They entice children and unsuspecting families with material goods, false marriage proposals, and promises of employment and a better life.
Traffickers make high profits and run low risks thanks to weak legislative policies, loopholes in the laws, corruption and lack of enforcement. The internet has become a marketplace for sex trafficking where pimps can easily avoid the authorities, facilitate transactions and lie about the age of the victims. Victims do not usually see payment for the services they provide.