Abstract

Human trafficking does not receive nearly as much attention that it deserves but, awareness has increased over the past decade. The biggest misconception is that human trafficking is not a vast problem within the United States. There is a large controversy on whether or not people choose this lifestyle or are forced into it. Exploitation of another person is a despicable act but, because of the high demand, there are those willing to get their hands dirty. The sex trade industry is one of the most lucrative of commerce. Sex trade offers amplified profitability; even more so than narcotics and firearms because once those items are sold, they are gone but, humans can be retailed immeasurably. Having a product that is able to be reused endlessly at a high price makes it extremely easy for greed to win. How can we fix these circumstances of gluttony, lasciviousness, and self-indulgence that sacrifice the innocence of others? The only answer to stopping the perpetrators and bringing healing to victims of human trafficking is creating more awareness, enforcing legislation and providing adequate training. When we love others as ourselves, human rights becomes an important issue. There is a conscious deficit of the resources in the community, legislation and the love of Christ.

Keywords: Human trafficking, Modern slavery, Prostitution, Economic exploitation, Sex trade, Profit, Greed, Broken homes, Victim healing, Resources, Awareness, Stigma, Grace, Christ.

History of Human Trafficking

Human beings have been traded to be used for sex and labor for thousands of years. Although human bondage has been around since ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, most scholars begin to record and associate human trafficking around the 1400s along with the African slave trade. Human trafficking has been more closely defined within the last decades. According to Burke, The United Nations defined human trafficking as:

Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (Burke, 2017, P. 4)

This definition is significant because it provided the groundwork for law enforcement to be aware of this veiled issue and commence working towards resolving it. The numbers on average of just how many victims there are of human trafficking is difficult to pinpoint because many cases are unknown. The US Department of State estimates roughly 50,000 human trafficking victims throughout the United States with a 36 billion revenue. Many traffickers operate in a freelance style, making the crimes difficult to track. We do know, however, 50% percent of the victims are minors and about 80% are women. Some are forced into pornography, others into marriages or labor.

Many times human trafficking can go unnoticed by police, social workers, and citizens. Commercial exploitation can have many facades to cover up their illicit operations. Some of these operations take place in nightclubs, nail shops, motels and many other places that might go unnoticed. Sometimes people see something that may not seem normal but do not question it. We may think this does not happen in my city or neighborhood but the reality is that it does. The internet facilitates much of the business transactions that are made; especially social media sites that allow for a discrete process of supply and demand. One of the biggest social media sites is Back Page. Another issue is the use of Bitcoin instead of currency. These types of transactions make it difficult for law enforcement to trace and apprehend perpetrators.

Modern Slavery and Prostitution

Human trafficking differs from prostitution in that there is power and control over the victim for the purpose of exploitation, whether it be for sex or for labor. Some victims are forced to get tattoos to display ownership just as slaves were branded. This victimization is forced sexual activity, not a chose profession of prostitution. Many believe slavery is an issue of the past but, when someone is taken, transported and forced to perform against their will; that shows that slavery is alive and well. In human trafficking the victims also do not keep any of the wages they earn from exploitation. Three components that also differentiate trafficking from prostitution are fraud, force, and coercion. The bottom girl is often compared to the overseer in slavery. Not everyone believes it the slavery analogy. Some think runaways chose their pimp’s home life over their parents and, initially that may be true but, what happens when they realize they made a mistake and are not allowed to leave? Mishra disagrees with the comparison of slavery, claiming: “the overt slave exploitation learned from history books restricts understanding of the subtle and hidden exploitative mechanisms involved in highly complicated human trafficking” (Mishra, 2015, P. 19) Perhaps human trafficking is more intricate than most think. The concern of human trafficking is global. There are some figures to observe below:

Human Trafficking Visualized. Digital image. Stand Against Human Trafficking. N.p., n.d. Web..

Causes of Trafficking

According to Palmiotto, “the demand for human trafficking has increased with globalization, the breakup of the Soviet Union, economic poverty and lack of border control.” (Palmiotto, 2014, P. 18). One of the biggest strategies of human trafficking is coercion. Spotters will stake out parks, fast food restaurants and many public areas in search of young people who look exposed. There are young children who feel a sense of hopelessness in their home life, and traffickers make it seem like they can fix all their problems with a little charm. Many times a recruiter preys on vulnerable groups such as runaways, LGBT community, undocumented immigrants and poverty-stricken youth. These predicaments provide very little stability and support so it makes the groups more susceptible to trafficking. The first person to make contact with the victim may promise a job opportunity, a family-like environment or glamorous life. The victim may believe they are being set up for a modeling job and the thought of nice clothes and jewelry may seem enticing in the beginning. Many may lack a father figure in their lives and the pimp takes on that role even though they are being mistreated. Now this young child with low self-esteem goes from being a person to simply a product. Other methods of intimidation may be used such as threatening family members or rape. In some cultures, a family member might even sell someone in their household for profit due to their economic status. Once the adolescent is lured in they can be controlled by narcotics, substance abuse and violence.

Solutions for Sex Trade

Some strides have been made in the war against human trafficking but there is a long way to go. There have been cases against the Communication Decency Act which protects websites from third-party publications. If a social media site is selling a minor for sex, Congress said that the website is not responsible for the transaction. Law enforcement has been paying more attention to the human trafficking epidemic. There are now task forces who dedicate their time and resources solely to trafficking stings. The closest one to my department is in Fayetteville, North Carolina who has a team of six members. I believe that more agencies need special units like these. There needs to be no more turning a blind eye, the public needs to renounce the thought that this only happens in other countries. We need to wake up and realize this could happen to a sister, a daughter, a friend. Trafficking, like other organized crimes, does not discriminate and will seize an opportunity. Another helpful key is eliminating the middlemen. There are those needed to facilitate the crimes in human trafficking, such as those who falsify documents like passports or fake identification cards and other counterfeit items used. Law enforcement needs more training on recognizing the signs of human trafficking and how to investigate it; as well as knowing the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution. You cannot fix a problem you do not know how to identify. As Biback states: “we all stay at motels, get on planes or trains and go to sporting event and sometimes see something and say to ourselves ‘that looked strange” but then do not say anything. It’s at our truck stops, at our restaurants” (Biback, 2017, P.34). If we paid attention and cared a bit more we might be able to make a true difference and save someone’s life. Some trafficking traveling indicators are cash only transactions, nervousness, and limited eye contact.

Grace Over Stigma and Shame

Recently, as part of my law enforcement training, I attended a human trafficking awareness Symposium at NC State University. One of the components of the conference was called “The Bottom Girl Phenomenon”. The main speaker was human sex trafficking survivor named Shamere McKenzie. Shamere spoke to law enforcement about her role as a bottom girl and the stigmatization that still follows her despite her being a victim. She argues that she was criminalized repeatedly when she was manipulated and forced to commit the crime by a pimp. It was her job to recruit, manage and supervise other young girls. After McKenzie got out of the life she was charged with various felonies for her role in the trafficking world. She stated how it was hard for her to get a college education and a home with a record and she remained branded. At this point in my career, I had not considered the aftermath struggles of the bottom girl much. I had very little sympathy for recruiters but I had not measured that they too were indeed victims.

The bottom girl is the pimps right hand and many times drive the girls around, takes them shopping and handles their money. I thought to myself as she spoke, that she would have had ample opportunity to reach out to a store clerk or even drive to the police station. McKenzie spoke of the fear the pimp had instilled in her and about Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is when the hostage feels empathy or positively about their own captors. Although she was beaten, raped and spit on and endured so many dreadful things, the pimp was still her lover and provider. What can we offer them other than a felonious record? I cannot even begin to imagine the psychological trauma that these victims are scarred with and the court system fails to take that into consideration. Stewart speaks of risk factors for victims’ mental health such as: “violence before and during trafficking, poor living and working conditions, restricted movement while trafficked, longer duration of exploitation and unmet social needs after escape; all factors commonly present in trafficked individuals.” (Stewart, 2016, P.343). A little more empathy can be beneficial to the victims of human trafficking. They may be able to receive the treatment they need and be given a true chance at healing.

Christian Worldview of Trafficking

As Christians, we are called to be agents of change. Isaiah 61:1-3, King James Version speaks about “binding up the brokenhearted, freeing captives from darkness, comforting those who mourn and bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Sometimes we call ourselves Christian but can look down on those who we may see as unredeemable. How many times have you told a prostitute or a drug addict that Jesus Christ died for them and He loves them? We tend to shy away from those types of people when they are the ones who need to hear from us most. We serve a God of love, who restores and makes all things new.

One of the biggest problems in Christianity as well as politics and law enforcement is the amount of hypocrisy. It is so easy to blame the pimp and the bottom girl; but what about the rich man, the high-end client who is purchasing a child for sex? There is a global heart problem that is like cancer in our society. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to “guard our hearts above all else because all that we do flows from it”. If we allowed Jesus to dwell in our hearts and in our marriages and our homes there would be a lot less brokenness and emptiness. If young girls would know the love of their Father God Abba as well as their natural father they would not need the deceiving love of a pimp. Lust and purity have a long history of battling against one another in the hearts of mankind. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are not our own and bought with a price”. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price and died on the cross so we may live for Him.

Conclusion

In a perfect world, there would be no broken homes, poverty, and lack of education and surplus of crime but; this is not a perfect world. Sadly, I do not think the war on human trafficking can ever be won due to the malice in this world. Timoshkina makes a valid point in saying: “Trafficking in persons has been, and still is, conceptualized primarily as a criminal justice issue and a national security problem, rather than a complex phenomenon encompassing human rights, labor rights, the right to free movement and migration, and the right to family reunification, among others.” (Timoshkina, 2014, P. 412). Despite that fact, together, we must keep fighting the good fight against the sex trade. More people need to commit to spreading the good news. The word teaches us to preach the gospel to all creatures, not just the ones we like. Law enforcement can be more vigil and knowledgeable to human trafficking indicators. Treat victims as victims and allow them to obtain the treatment necessary to heal. Legislation needs to change and be harsher and strictly enforced upon traffickers.

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Popular Questions About Human Trafficking

What exactly is human trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. ... Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
What are examples of human trafficking?
The 3 most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. Forced labor, also known as involuntary servitude, is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world, according to the U.S. Department of State.
What crime is human trafficking?
Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.