Human Trafficking Awareness
Written By Kathryn Marsh, Prosecutor POV
Human trafficking is modern day slavery. While one may be forgiven in thinking human trafficking is a fairly recent phenomenon, having caught the media’s attention in the last decade, in reality human trafficking has been in existence since the beginning of time.
Legally human trafficking is split into two distinct categories: Labor Trafficking and Sex Trafficking.
Labor trafficking is not publicized to the same degree as sex trafficking. The Department of Health and Human Services provides services for trafficking victims and of the victims in Fiscal Year 2022, 62% of the adult survivors and 73% of child survivors they served were survivors of labor trafficking with an additional 12% of adults and 4% of children being survivors of both labor and sex trafficking. [i]
What is labor trafficking?
Labor trafficking is defined in the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act as ”The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining 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.” Basically, this means forcing someone to provide labor or services against their will or choice. Labor trafficking is often accomplished through physical force, threats of force, isolation and the trafficker holding the workers pay or documents the worker would need to leave (license, visa, passport).
The industries where labor trafficking is most prevalent are: agri/aquaculture, domestic work, construction, landscaping, factories and manufacturing, and healthcare.[ii] In the United States the most prevalent victims of labor trafficking are citizens of the United States, Mexico and Honduras.[iii]
You can learn more about Labor Trafficking at the US Department of Labor or Polaris websites. To make a report of suspected labor trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO 233733.
What is Sex Trafficking?
“Sex trafficking encompasses the range of activities involved when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to engage in a commercial sex act or causes a child to engage in a commercial sex act.”[iv]
Sex trafficking, in reality, is rarely what we see in the movies where someone is kidnapped and forced into a brothel or auction. Victims are often trafficked by family members, loved ones, or trusted individuals. Due to grooming, obligation or fear of their alternatives, a victim may not even understand they’re being trafficked.
Anyone can be trafficked, but traffickers are master manipulators and look for some vulnerability to exploit.
Some vulnerabilities may include; mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, recent relocation, intimate partner violence, and involvement with child welfare/foster care system
What can you do to help reduce trafficking?
Become familiar with the signs. Polarisproject.org provides ways to recognize trafficking in all its forms. Additionally, Polaris hosts a human trafficking training program on their website.
Watch what you buy. The Department of Labor keeps a list of products produced by forced or indentured labor. Find the list here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-products.
Support survivor led projects and businesses that help provide survivors with job stability, housing, and mental health services.
Below I highlight three but there are hundreds more you can support.
Thistle Farms (thistlefarms.org) is a non-profit that helps women survivors by providing them a safe place to live, a job and a support system., free of charge. You can support this mission and purchase products made by survivors on their website.
Atlanta Redemption Ink is a non-profit founded by trafficking survivor Jessica Lamb, is a national network for tattoo services and scar revisions. They provide support services, tattoo removals and coverups to survivors of trafficking. You can support ARI at arionline.org.
AnnieCannons provides technical training to trafficking survivors and engages survivors on paid projects to build strong work portfolios and practical experience. Survivors have designed and built software applications that have helped fight trafficking and gender-based violence. Learn more at anniecannons.com
[i] 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: United States; U.S. Department of State
[ii] Office for Victims of Crime – Human Trafficking Building Center “Understanding Labor Trafficking”