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.
Victims of human trafficking do not often identify themselves as victims of a crime and therefore do not ask for help immediately due to lack of trust, self-blame or being directly trained by traffickers to distrust authorities. Rehabilitation is difficult. The physical, psychological and behavioral effects experienced by victims as a result of the violence and exploitation they experience before and during the sex trade linger far into their future. They have difficulty formulating their identity apart from being a sexual object. They cannot remember the person they used to be prior to their incorporation into the industry.
What can you do?
• Lobby your legislators — tell them we need more comprehensive laws and enforcement of this crime;
• Join the Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking Anti-Trafficking committee. Call 242-7611 for more information;
• Keep your children safe when using the internet. Attend a workshop at Clinton Community College on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m.;
• Know the signs, see www.clintonfranciscans.com to learn more; and
• Report any suspicious behavior to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline: at 1-888-373-7888.
Laura Anderson, Sister Nancy Miller and Lori Freudenberg, co-coordinators of the Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking and the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton