A Closer Look at Human Trafficking
Sara was just looking for a break into the modeling industry to earn a little extra money.
She met a man at a nightclub, introduced through mutual friends, and it seemed like the perfect match. He’d show up to her work and surprise her with romantic gestures, and seemingly do anything to gain and keep her affection. He also happened to have a connection to a modeling agency and set Sara up with an audition at a local hotel. That was the first night Sara was trafficked.
What followed was months and months of sexual servitude, where she was subjected to sexual assault for the monetary gain of her “boyfriend” and handlers. She was also forcefully given drugs to lower her inhibitions and ability to fight back, as well as to make her even more dependent on her trackers.¹
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a month dedicated to protecting and empowering survivors of all forms of human trafficking, to prosecute traffickers, and to bring an end to human trafficking in the United States and around the world. Similarly, today – July 30th, is The World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This day is meant to raise awareness about the situation of human trafficking victims and meant to promote and protect the rights of trafficking victims.
Human trafficking is a type of modern-day slavery – using force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Both men and women, young boys and young girls, particularly those in vulnerable situations, are susceptible to being victims of human trafficking.
Knowing the magnitude of the issue – it’s estimated that almost 25 million people worldwide are trafficked – what are ways we can fight against and eradicate human trafficking?²
1. Educate yourself against common misconceptions. A few misconceptions around human trafficking exist. First, probably the most pervasive misconception about human trafficking is that it involves kidnapping or smuggling. In reality, most traffickers use psychological manipulation, fraud, or threats to traffic victims. Second, human trafficking commonly involves sex, but not always. Many times trafficking is more like indentured servitude – forced labor in a private economy, companies like restaurants, massage parlors, hotels, or domestic service. Lastly, human trafficking victims will not always seek help. It’s usually a hidden crime, and a great deal of threats and manipulation, or even providing addicting drugs that make the victim dependent on the trafficker, often leads to victims choosing to remain with their captors. Sometimes, victims will return willingly after release from their captor.
2. Recognize warning signs and be aware of available help. Knowing that human trafficking can and does take place in all places in the world, there are a few warning signs we can all be aware of. Signs may not be apparent, but as you pay attention to people you come across in your everyday life – your children’s friends, your coworkers, and people you work directly with, students in your class, clients at a hotel, or patients at a clinic. Here is a link to a helpful guide on recognizing human trafficking.
3. Do nothing to contribute to the problem. There’s a Latin phrase, Primum non nocere, which means “first do no harm,” a principle in medical ethics. We can apply this to human trafficking too – let’s first make sure we’re not contributing to the problem. Unfortunately, trafficking is a demand driven industry. If demand went away tomorrow, the millions of victims of trafficking would be released. Consuming pornography is often deemed a victimless crime, something done in privacy that doesn’t hurt anyone. But, if you’ve ever used pornography, you’ve probably contributed to sex trafficking. Traffickers can coerce victims into “modeling” for images or videos, often as a means of control threatening to shame them by things like exposing the images to family members, then selling them to websites in order to profit. As followers of Jesus, we can refuse to participate in things like pornography that the world deems harmless, thereby reducing demand.
I’ll end with a short charge from Scripture for those who feel called to help eradicate human trafficking in our day:
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy
With so many things demanding our attention, and justifiably so, let’s take today to pray for and raise awareness for human trafficking victims across the world. God calls us to stand for justice, to defend the rights of the vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable than who is being groomed for trafficking, who is lacking justice more than someone living in slavery? Let’s leverage our freedom and privileges on behalf of those who have none.