Human Trafficking is a highly complex issue that affects potentially thousands of foreign and domestic men, women, and children in the United States. No one is certain how many people are trafficked in the United States every year. The US Government, state agencies, and various non-governmental organizations throughout the US are committed to preventing trafficking, protecting victims of trafficking and prosecuting traffickers.
It is important to know the difference between trafficking and smuggling, and the difference between trafficking and exploitation, as not all cases of labor exploitation or prostitution are instances of trafficking. The US federal statute, Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, has created guidelines for federal officials to recognize situations of trafficking, as the situations are usually extremely complex. Trained authorities and service providers, after interviewing the trafficked person, can be the best judge of whether there is a trafficking situation (instances of force, fraud, or coercion constitute sex or labor trafficking).
Underage American girls, many of them runaways or throwaways, also get caught up in forced prostitution in the United States. These can also be considered instances of trafficking, though again, trained authorities and service providers would be the best judge. For more information about American girls caught up in forced prostitution, read Who Is There to Help Us?**It should be noted that despite the depiction of trafficking on the recent Lifetime Channel mini-series, Human Trafficking, to date, there have not been any instances of American girls or boys kidnapped for the international commercial sex trade in Southeast Asia or anywhere else in the world.
The following information is provided so that American citizens feel EMPOWERED to be able to recognize what a victim of trafficking might look like, and act accordingly.
If you suspect someone has been trafficked, call the:
Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored, toll-free, 24 hour
NATIONAL HOTLINE: +1-888-3737-888
Department of Justice-sponsored, toll-free, 24 hour
Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line
These hotlines will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations.
You may also call:
If you have information about the COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION of a child in the U.S. or abroad, you can do the following:
RED FLAGS TO LOOK OUT FOR A TRAFFICKING VICTIM:
Trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls. While each victim will have a different experience, they share common threads. Trafficking victims live a life marked by abuse, betrayal of their basic human rights, and control under their trafficker. The following indicators in and of themselves may not be enough to meet the legal standard for trafficking, but they indicate that a victim is controlled by someone else and, accordingly, the situation should be further investigated.
Very Important: You do not want to create a situation of greater danger for this person. Ask questions with great care and sensitivity. The person may be traumatized and not be able to speak about his/her experience. Most trafficking victims will not readily volunteer information about their status because of fear and abuse they have suffered at the hands of their trafficker. They may also be reluctant to come forward with information from despair, discouragement, and a sense that there are no viable options to escape their situation. Even if pressed, they may not identify themselves as someone held in bondage for fear of retribution to themselves or family members.
Anyone can report suspected trafficking cases. If the victim is under 18, U.S. professionals who work in law enforcement, healthcare, social care, mental health, and education are mandated to report such cases. Through a grass-roots community-wide effort and public awareness campaign, more professionals on the front line can readily identify the trafficking victim and have him/her treated accordingly.
Health Characteristics of a Trafficked Person
Some of the health problems that may be evident in a victim include:
Other Important Signs
In addition to some of the obvious physical and mental indicators of trafficking, there are other signs that an individual is being controlled by someone else. Red flags should go up for police or aid workers who notice any of the following during an intake. The individual:
U.S. NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Over the last four years, U.S. nongovernmental organizations and service providers (psychologists, attorneys, advocates, etc.) have received grants from the US Government to provide services to victims of trafficking throughout the US. It is possible that an NGO in your area accepts donations or volunteers.
a) Support financially or donate other materials to a local nongovernmental organization combating human trafficking
b) Volunteer with a local NGO if you have relevant skills
If you are interested in donating to, or volunteering with, International Organizations in other countries, you can see the list of International Organizations in Asia which accept donations and volunteers. If you would like more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
DOES YOUR STATE HAVE A HUMAN TRAFFICKING STATUTE?
Advocate to your State Representatives or Senators for your state to pass anti-human trafficking statutes on human trafficking to support the federal level statutes. The Department of Justice has written a Model State Anti-Trafficking Criminal Statute.
The following states have passed various state-level statutes on trafficking:
Bills are pending in:
Bills are pending in:
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Sex Trafficking: Victims of sex trafficking are often found working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts, i.e. brothels, strip clubs, pornography production houses. Such establishments may operate under the guise of:
Not every person working in these establishments will have technically been trafficked. It would be necessary for trained authorities or service providers to interview each person individually to determine trafficking.
How Do People Get Trapped Into Sex or Labor Trafficking?
No one volunteers to be exploited. Traffickers frequently recruit people through fraudulent advertisements promising legitimate jobs as hostesses, domestics, or work in the agricultural industry. Trafficking victims of all kinds come from rural, suburban, and urban settings. There are signs when commercial establishments are holding people against their will.
For more information on how you can help to combat trafficking, contact:Tips for Recognizing Victims of Trafficking in Persons; Citizen Action: How Can I Help End Modern-Day Slavery?; U.S. Policy Alert on Human Trafficking
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