A Closer Look at Human Trafficking

3 Oct

Guest blog post by Katy P., Team Haiti 2012

Parents, imagine having to sell your child for food or to get out of poverty. Imagine your child being taken by either someone you know or a stranger and forced into doing unimaginable things that are pornographic, or in human trafficking, etc. I know this is hard to imagine or even think that this would happen to your child, but unfortunately this happens every day to millions of children all over the world.

Human trafficking has been described as: the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons: by the threat or use of kidnapping, force , fraud, deception or coercion, or by the giving or receiving of unlawful payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, and for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms and include forcing a child into prostitution or other forms of sexual activity or child pornography. Child exploitation can also include forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for use in begging, or for recruitment for cults.

When people think of traffickers, they normally think of strangers, and most of the time it is strangers, but other times it is a family member or a neighbor.  Many parents, especially in poor countries, sell their children to pay off debts or gain an income, or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training or a better life for their children.  They may sell their children for labor, sex trafficking or illegal adoptions.  Unfortunately, victims of trafficking are later used to traffic other women and children, because that is all they know how to do.

There are many horrible stories about human trafficking but there are a few stories about success also. One such story is about a 10 year old girl who was promised by a stranger that he could give her a better life if she came to live with him. Her parents agreed and she went with him. After moving around for a few days with this man, he finally took her to a house where he raped her again and again. He hung her by her wrists in the garage for days without any food and water, and he taught her moves that men like.  He finally thought that she was ready and put her to work. He would work her on the streets and bring in men to the house. She was treated very badly and was raped nightly by different men. After years in this kind of life, she finally met someone who promised to help her. This lady was from a church in the town and called the police and told her what she thought was going on with this young lady. The police investigated and charged the man; he is now in jail. The young lady is now out of that kind of work and helping others like her get out of that kind of life.  There are many stories that do not end in a happy ending, many are still in that kind of life and don’t know how to get out.  Trafficking victims normally don’t get help because they think that they or their families will be hurt by their traffickers or that they will get deported. Many are in a strange new land, don’t know the language, or don’t know anybody to be able to get help.

Children make up 26% of all forced labor victims. It is also estimated that children make up 21% of forced sexually exploited labor in the private economy. There are 5.5 million child victims at any given point in time. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as 6 years old. The average age of a young woman first being trafficked is 12-14 years old.  The younger the child, the more they can be “molded” into what the trafficker wants and this raises their price. Trafficked children are significantly more likely to develop mental health problems, abuse substances, engage in prostitution as adults and either commit or be victimized by violent crimes later in life.  Women who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation experience a higher rate of HIV/Aids, and other STDs, tuberculosis, and permanent damage to their reproductive system. An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect.  Once formally put to work, human trafficking victims can be forced to service 40 to 110 customers in one day. For every 800 people trafficked, one person is convicted.

Most people think Human Trafficking is mostly overseas in other countries, which is true. Every country has some form of human trafficking in them. But what about in the United States? Most people don’t think this is happening in their neighborhood, but it is. According to the CIA, more than one million people are currently being trafficked within the United States and that number is growing. Estimates by the U.S. State Department suggest that up to an additional 17,500 trafficking victims are brought into the USA ever year. That does not include the old ones that have been here for years and years…that is just counting the new ones.  The buying and selling of human beings worldwide generates approximately $31.6 billion a year, only second to drug trafficking.

Proverbs 31: 8-9 says” Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly: defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  There are ways that we can help. For example, when we have a suspicion, we can report it to the law enforcement, donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization, or organize a fundraiser and donate the money to an anti-trafficking organization.  Get others involved by hosting an event and telling others what you know and how they can help.  Governments in the States are also getting involved to crack down on this issue. Seven years ago, Washington became the first state in the nation to make human trafficking a crime on the state level; now 44 states have a similar law. Let us do our part in pursuing justice and helping these children and women get to a better life.

Katy resides in Oneida, KY and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

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