It's been about three years since I wrote the series on human trafficking
. I still volunteer with a ministry that helps girls rescued from sex trafficking recover. But I thought it was time for some updates. What recent statistics are telling us:
The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report
gave a list of improvements the US needs to make to rescue and support trafficking victims. First is victim identification — figuring out who is trafficked and where they are. Along with that is training for law enforcement and prosecutors in regards to labor trafficking. Victims are desperately in need of recovery and restoration services, which require a lot of money. Specific victims who need more attention include Native American sex trafficking victims and domestic workers brought in by foreign diplomats.
How are kids pulled in?
A graphic from the University of New England
gives some interesting data on how trafficking victims are drawn into the life. Just over half of all victims were trafficked by someone who showed a romantic interest in them. Another 18% by someone who offered to provide necessities, such as food, a place to stay, or money. The most common setting (32%) in which victims were recruited and sold was social — through a friend or acquaintance.
Remember that human trafficking can occur through force, threat, or coercion
. * Force is
used in trafficking (11% of victims are kidnapped outright), and threat is the main component of "sexploitation," but most victims are brought into trafficking through coercion — by a "boyfriend," an acquaintance, or someone who provided care and assistance in a time of need, then uses emotional and mental manipulation to control the victim.
This sounds like a tenuous hold, and it would be for a rational, objective adult. But we're talking about kids and teens whose brains aren't quite done cooking
— they don't have the foresight to stay out of compromising situations, let alone be able to recognize the trafficker's grooming techniques. Combine this with their super-charged emotions, and they become especially vulnerable. But the #1 reason kids fall for coercion?
This isn't their first time being a victim.
Traffickers are human nature experts. They know which kids will fall into their traps. The first thing to look for is someone who has been sexually abused in the past
— 85% of trafficking victims were sexually abused before they were trafficked. They also know to look for someone from the foster care/group home system
— 60% of trafficking victims nationwide spent some time in foster care and/or group homes. Although the abuse rate in foster care
is reportedly low, the reason the kids are in government care in the first place is most likely abuse. Most of that abuse is simple neglect, but of the 676,569 kids reportedly abused in 2011
, 9.1% of that abuse was sexual in nature. And that only accounts for the cases that were investigated and confirmed by social services.
So fighting abuse in the home is key in fighting child sex trafficking — but not only for the victims. An incredibly high percentage of traffickers
grew up with sexual abuse (75%) and/or physical abuse (85%). And the machine is self-perpetuating; about 70% of traffickers were victims before they started trafficking others. (Which leads me to suspect far more women are trafficking other women and girls than we realize.)
Who is committing this abuse — neglect, physical, and sexual
? About 37% is mothers alone. Fathers alone commit another 19%, as do mothers and fathers together. In total, mothers are involved in about 64% of abuse cases. As far as sexual abuse goes
, 87% of the victims were abused by a male. Of sexual abuse perpetrators
, 93% were at least acquainted with the child, while 47% were related.
How are child trafficking victims rescued?
Authorities are at work identifying and rescuing kids. The FBI coordinated with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and local authorities again this year for their 2014 Operation Cross Country
. They rescued 168 minors and arrested 281 traffickers. Since 2003, they've rescued 3600 kids. So far this year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
has identified 585 child victims, 430 in the US. Traditionally, 4 out of every 5 sex trafficking victims have been female. The HSI results show a shift in the trend — 288 of the victims were girls and 264 were boys.
That's on top of the day-to-day local authorities pulling kids off the street and helping them start a new life. Everyone and their cat
has gotten into the business of training law enforcement to look for trafficking victims. Restore Innocence, a Colorado ministry that helps victims' restoration, has had such success with their Restoration Bags
, Love146 copied us
How can child trafficking be prevented?
Awareness about child trafficking has exploded in the last few years. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a great website
to teach kids, parents, teachers, and law enforcement about trafficking. "John schools" — classes that teach users about trafficking — are plenty, but don't do much good if two thirds
of them already know — and don't care.
Looking at these statistics, I see one major step that needs to happen to destroy the child trafficking industry. A step that I've not heard before in this context.
We have to teach parents how to raise their kids.
We need to help mothers and fathers learn how to protect them from sexual predators. We have to make sure dads don't become
sexual predators. We have to teach them not to beat their kids. Daniel Davis' statistics
are too clear:
- 85%: approximate percentage of trafficking victims who were sexually abused before.
- 75%: approximate percentage of traffickers who were molested as children.
- 85%: approximate percentage of traffickers who were physically abused as children.
- 70%: approximate percentage of traffickers who were trafficking victims before they switched.
- 55%: amount of child pornography produced in the US.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or a trafficker is grooming someone, there are several avenues to alert authorities:
- For suspicion of child predators, contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or use the online tip form.
- For missing children or suspicion of child sexual exploitation, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
- For known or suspicions of trafficking situations, including locations such as massage parlors, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's Polaris Project at 1-888-2727-888 or text at BeFree (233733).
- For imminent and/or present trafficking situations, call 911.
* From American Military University's InPublicSafety.com
Force (Federal TVPA Definition): Physical restraint or causing serious harm. Examples of force include kidnapping, battering, kicking, pushing, denial of food or water, denial of medical care, forced use of drugs or denial of drugs once a victim is addicted, forced to lie to friends and family about their whereabouts, being held in locked rooms or bound.
Fraud: Knowingly misrepresenting the truth or concealing an actual fact for the purpose of inducing another person to act to her/his detriment. Examples of fraud include false promises for specific employment, being promised a certain amount of money that is never paid, working conditions are not as promised, being told she or he would receive legitimate immigration papers or a green card to work but the documents are not obtained.
Coercion: Threats or perceived threats of serious harm to or physical constraints against any person; a scheme intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform will result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person.