Wednesday, January 11, 2012

human trafficking awareness day

January 11th is human trafficking awareness day. 
Some of you may remember in November when I posted a paper I wrote for English 101 about modern slavery.

Well, that was only a rough draft of the paper, and for my final portfolio it was revised and better.

And since today is human trafficking awareness day, I wanted to share the article, finished and as a whole.

In Plain Sight: Modern Slavery

            Human trafficking. Two words that to some, have meaning. Others may only have an inkling of what it is those words mean, while some don’t even know. Human trafficking didn’t end in the United States with the abolishment of slavery. Human trafficking still happens, and not just on a national level. But in our cities, our neighborhoods, our backyards: in plain sight. We can sit back and wish things like that don’t happen. Or, we can open our eyes to what is going on and in turn, learn and open the eyes of others. Together, we can end slavery.
            What is human trafficking? Essentially, human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings: modern slavery. Human trafficking is a transnational crime, meaning it happens in multiple countries the world over. While human trafficking itself is illegal, it happens for the purpose of other crimes. Sexual exploitation is the most media recognized, but people are also trafficked for forced labor; a crime just as terrible and prevalent as sexual slavery and exploitation.
            People of all ages, genders, nationalities and walks of life can be victims of human trafficking. In 2005 the International Labor Organization estimated the minimum number of persons in trafficking situations to be 2.45 million. Out of that, an approximate 45,000–50,000 of those persons are trafficked through the United States annually (Obuah 1), with the United States among the top 10 destinations for human trafficking (Hepburn; Simon 3). The exact number trafficked through the U.S. every year can only be estimated.
            Many times, victims of human trafficking are brought to America under false pretenses. The promise of employment, education or marriage is extremely tempting (Reed). Other victims of human trafficking may have been kidnapped from off the streets, something that happens to children for the purpose of sexual exploitation (“Love146…Child Trafficking Facts”).
More often than not, people in trafficking situations are kept in living conditions that are unhealthy both physically and mentally; forced to work for hours on end (Reed) without breaks and given little or no food and clean water (Hepburn; Simon 5).
Traffickers keep a handle on their victims through confiscating travel documents, regular rape, beatings, threats upon them and their families, debt bondage, and even through the use of drugs (Obuah 8).
            Why does human trafficking happen? It’s a simple incentive old as man kind: greed.  Believe it or not, the trafficking of persons is an extremely lucrative business for traffickers with profits in the billions, and little or no risk to those who commit the crime. In fact, the trafficking of women is even more profitable than the international drugs and arms trade (Obuah 10). The International Labor Office estimated human trafficking to have an annual worldwide profit of $44.3 billion dollars (Hepburn; Simon 2).
Because of the sex industry traffickers, pimps, and their seedy associates aren’t the only to profit from human trafficking. Some of the biggest U.S. corporations earn tens of millions in profits from the distribution of pornography; pornography that because of lax regulation often illegally uses underage and trafficked persons (Hepburn; Simon 4).
While sexual exploitation and slavery make up a large part of human trafficking, it’s not the only form of modern slavery. The reality is that forced labor is just as bad as sexual slavery, but “Since the general activities—[such as] domestic work, farming, factory work, or restaurant work—are all legal activities, there is a perception that ‘it’s not as bad as sex trafficking’, because in sex trafficking people are being forced into an illegal activity (qtd. in Hepburn; Simon 12).”
            Trafficking of humans can, and does, happen right under our noses. In the words of Kathleen Morris: “We think of it [prostitution] as a shady business, but the brothels are often homes in residential neighborhoods” (qtd. in Reed). In October 2011 a Rhode Island man was arrested on human trafficking charges, for enticing a 17 year old girl to perform sex acts for money (Sotnik). Around the same time in Connecticut a man is facing life for prostituting a 14 year old girl (“Man Faces Life for Prostituting a Minor”). Modern slavery happens, and it’s closer than you think.
            Human trafficking is a problem that spans country and continent, so what can we do about it? If knowledge truly is power then the first thing we can do is educate ourselves on the subject. Websites and organizations like, Love146 (, and the International Labor Organization ( all have an abundance of information on the subjects of human trafficking, modern slavery, child labor, forced labor, and sexual slavery. Every year the United States government releases a Trafficking in Persons report which ranks countries based on efforts taken in the fight against trafficking.
            Knowledge on the subject is a key part in understanding and opening eyes to the realities of human trafficking and modern slavery. But knowledge of warning signs someone may be a victim are equally important. In her article on human trafficking for “Seattle Woman Magazine”, Wenda Reed provides some red flags to look for if there’s a chance someone may be a victim of modern slavery. For example if someone is kept isolated, has had their travel documents or identification taken away from them or are not allowed money.
            As American citizens the few things we have control over is how we spend our time and money. The corporations that profit tens of billions by distributing pornography include the Time Warner, Hilton, Westin, AT&T and Marriott companies (Hepburn; Simon 4). Because of the aforementioned lax regulations on pornography and the American sex industry, it’s reasonable that by supporting these companies and others it supports human trafficking and sexual exploitation of persons. Next time you go to spend your hard earned money, try researching who you’re buying from and find out what your money may be supporting.
            There are also organizations that have a heart and drive to aid in the rescue of victims of human trafficking. Love146 is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources to combat child sex trafficking. World Vision is a humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice; including human and sex trafficking. Check out these organizations and research others (make sure they’re real!) to find out what you can do to make a difference, whether it’s volunteering time or money.  
Love146 has suggestions about getting involved by joining a Love146 Task Force who meet monthly to educate themselves and raise awareness about child sex slavery as well as hold fundraisers for Love146. You can also partner with Love146, giving money to help in the prevention of child sex slavery and provide aftercare for victims. These are only two of the ways to help Love146 in the battle against child sex slavery and exploitation, with more available on their website.
World Vision has various suggestions on how to get involved in fighting human trafficking, everything from calling your members of congress to support the Trafficking Victims Protection act, to gifting money to help save sexually exploited girls. Merely search ‘trafficking’ on the World Vision website and there is an abundance of resources.
Still yet, all these numbers and statistics cannot even come to show just what is happening and the evils of modern slavery and human trafficking. The number of people victimized and the amount of profit from human trafficking can only ever be guessed at.
We all like to think that bad things don’t happen; at least not in our communities, our cities, or our nation. But the fact of the matter is human trafficking happens everywhere. No matter where you live, human trafficking exists in some way, shape, or form. We come in contact with it everyday though we may not even realize (Obauh 3). We have the choice to continue in our normalcy, preferring to avoid what’s happening. Or, we can choose to educate ourselves and others to the reality that human trafficking happens everywhere; and it’s something that together, we can end.

Works Cited
Hepburn, Stephanie; Simon, Rita J. “Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking in the United States.” Springer Science & Business Media. 27.1-2 (2010): 1-26. Proquest Research Library. Feature. 29 October 2011.
“ United States Child Trafficking Facts”. New Haven, CT: Love146 2009. Web. 29 October 2011.
“Man faces life for prostituting a minor”. News 8. LIN Television Corporation, 25 October 2011. Web. 29 October 2011.
Obuah, Emmanuel. “Combating Global Trafficking in Persons: the Role of the United States Post September 2001”. Palgrave Macmillan. 43.2 (2006):241-265. Proquest Research Library. Feature. 29 October 2011.
Reed, Wenda. “Slaves Among Us: Human Trafficking in the Seattle Area.” Seattle Woman. Caliope Publishing Company, 2010. Web. 27 October 2011.
Sotnik, Kathryn. “Man arrested in human trafficking case”. LIN Television Corporation, 25 October 2011 Web. 28 October 2011.

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