Reality: human trafficking is happening in your community and mine.
Two cousins, both under the age of 18, arrived in the United States to live with their aunt and uncle. Their parents sent them to the states under the premise that the aunt and uncle would send them to school, as well as provide food and housing for the kids. It seemed like a great arrangement… until the children arrived.
While they were sent to school, they also became modern day slaves and were forced to work long hours each day after school and on weekends; sometimes until 2:00 a.m. on school nights. Other workers, many of whom were older than the kids, also lived in the apartment with the aunt and uncle. The kids were allowed no contact with their parents back home and were told they owed an ever increasing debt to the aunt and uncle, with almost no hope of ever paying it off. As they earnestly attempted to reduce their mounting debt, they literally couldn't stay awake in school after working so late each night.
Sadly, this story is playing itself out all over the United States, and in fact, the world. Currently, it is estimated that nearly 29 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. It's big business. Raking in over $32 billion annually, human trafficking is the fastest growing global industry and ranks second as the largest industry behind the illegal drug trade and tied for second place with illegal arms dealing.
There are two types of human trafficking:
1) Sex Trafficking: A commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is not 18 years old.
2) Labor Trafficking: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtainment of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
A 2010 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report cited that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Additionally, the prevalence of trafficking victims worldwide equates to 1.8 per 1,000 inhabitants. Human trafficking has been found to exist in 161 countries with over 1 million children being victimized each year. And yes, the United States is one of the major players in the trafficking business.
While some trafficking victims (est. between 14,500 and 17,500 men, women, and children) are trafficked into the United States each year, 83% of victims in our country are current U.S. citizens.
Children are at particular risk.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 – 293,000 U.S. children are in danger of becoming sexual commodities via prostitution or pornography. In fact, the average age of entry into the commercial sex trade for girls is 12-14; for boys, the age of entry is 11-13.
Since 2008, Department of Justice Anti-Trafficking Task Forces opened over 2,500 cases of human trafficking… almost 300 of those were in the Midwest, my neck ‘o the woods. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also been involved in trafficking and has worked on 925 cases since 2004, over 60 of those in the Midwest.
Task forces around the country are working diligently to rescue trafficking victims and prosecute those responsible. Three key elements are essential in prosecuting human traffickers. Those elements are that a victim was…
1) Recruited, harbored, moved or maintained…
2) By force, fraud or coercion…
3) For the purpose of involuntary servitude, forced labor, debt bondage or sex trade.
In trafficking cases where victims are under the age of 16, force or coercion does not have to be proven. Stiff penalties are enforced for those found guilty of human trafficking:
- Forced labor = up to 20 years in prison
- Trafficking into servitude = up to 20 years in prison
- Sex trafficking = up to life prison
- Involuntary servitude = up to 20 years in prison
- Debt bondage (“Peonage”) = up to 20 years in prison
- Document servitude = up to 5 years
- Conspiracy against rights = up to life if kidnapping, sexual abuse or death
In coming blogs, I will profile the key players in the business of sex trafficking: 1) recruiters; 2) traffickers; 3) victims; and 4) consumers (a.k.a. “johns”).
My deepest appreciation goes to the Indiana Attorney General's Office under the direction of Attorney General Greg Zoeller for providing much of this information, research and data. Special thanks goes to Attorney and Human Trafficking Prevention Project Manager Nicole Baldonado and Intern Kelly Dobkins for their tremendous assistance, guidance and support. I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a state where such talented, engaged and genuinely concerned professionals are working to protect people from the horrific realities of human trafficking.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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