Human Trafficking: the Victims

In Part I of this offering, we spoke globally about Human Trafficking and its various iterations. 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.
  • Debt bondage is another form of human trafficking in which an individual is forced to work in order to pay a debt.
  • Sex trafficking disproportionately affects women and children and involves forced participation in commercial sex acts. In the United States, any child under the age of 18 who has been involved in a commercial sex act is considered a trafficking victim. Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked transnationally. Yearly, traffickers exploit 1 million children in the commercial sex trade.

Perceptions of human trafficking often involve women forced into prostitution. This is just one aspect of human trafficking. Survivors of trafficking also include men and children, and these survivors are exploited by any number of means. Victims may be forced into any of the following types of labor, among others:

• domestic servitude
• agricultural work
• manufacturing
• janitorial services
• hotel services
• construction
• health and elder care
• hair and nail salons
• prostitution
• strip club dancing

Some survivors are “mail-order” brides who believe they are going to a new country for marriage, but instead, are enslaved.  All nationalities and ethnic groups are vulnerable to human trafficking. Any given country may be a source of forced labor, a place of transit, or a destination. 

It may seem odd to those who live in the U.S., but worldwide the type of human trafficking most widely found is that of Forced Labor. While it happens in the U.S., it is rare. In third-world and poor countries, Forced Labor is far more prevalent. But as we learn the Human Trafficking world, it is important for us all to understand all 3 types.

Far more egregious than labor and debt trafficking is that of sex trafficking — primarily because traffickers disproportionately target children. 

Here at Home

I live in a community of about 300,000 in Northwest Louisiana. It on the most part is a sleepy little community. Few people notice that human trafficking — especially sex trafficking — flourishes in Shreveport/Bossier Louisiana. Why is that?

Simple: “Location.”

Interstate 49 and Interstate 20 run right through the heart of these twin cities. Add to that the proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth and this location is critical to sex traffickers. Shreveport is just 180 miles from Dallas. It’s a natural spot for sex traffickers to set up shop, using Dallas/Fort Worth as the “starting point” for their operations and using Shreveport/Bossier as a crossroads to transporting their victims east, north, and south using the 2 interstates. Of course, they can “market” their commodities right here in town — and they do. Seldom does a month go by without there being a major local bust coordinated by the FBI, DEA, and state and local authorities. It is common for there to be dozens of such arrests made public quite often. It is also not surprising that when the identities of those arrested are made public, many of the traffickers are from North Texas and from south of the Texas border.

Northwest Louisiana and the entire state are really just one example of locations sex traffickers use in the U.S. Here’s part of a recent Shreveport story regarding Louisiana’s issues:

“The public will never know their real names. Take the case of “Julie” — a nine-year-old girl in Caddo Parish (Shreveport) who was sexually abused by her father and then prostituted by her mother out of her own home. Or the case of R.V., a 14-year-old girl who was taken from her home in Florida and trafficked to New Orleans, where she was arrested, at 15 in a 2010 sting operation for prostitution. Or the most recent cases of a minor who was advertised as a prostitute online by a Baton Rouge couple who pleaded guilty in Jan. 2016 to conspiring to commit sex trafficking of a minor, or the 14-year-old girl trafficked in from Dallas to a Shreveport motel.

There’s an underground movement in Louisiana — creeping along interstates, hiding in darkened hotel rooms and operating out of homes and neighborhoods. Child sex-trafficking — selling children for money, drugs, food, rent or greed — is a growing epidemic in the state with more than 100 child victims recovered by the FBI and law enforcement in just one quarter alone.”

No U.S. City is Exempt

(New York City, June of 2019) Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers sought Friday to toss out the sex trafficking claims of an actress the disgraced movie-making mogul maintains is trying to capitalize on the legal success of other women. The lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court to try to persuade a judge to reject Wedil David’s trafficking claims. David’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles in 2017 and moved to New York, said Weinstein raped her in late 2015 after using the promise of a role in a television series, “Marco Polo,” to lure her to a Beverly Hills hotel.
According to the lawsuit, David met Weinstein at a 2011 party, and he offered to assist her acting career. It said he invited her to awards show parties for several years afterward.

(Greater Los Angeles, June of 2019) “Given the recent reports in our own backyard, we need to become knowledgeable about the issue and change the way we think about sex trafficking. This problem resulted in a domestic and global large-scale trafficking system that was set up in Irvine. The 2017 and 2018 victim demographic report from the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force reveals 365 sex trafficking cases within our county. These women are minors and minorities, many ridden with poverty that keeps them entrapped with limited opportunities to leave and receive support. Almost 30% of the sex trafficking victims in Orange County were female minors. The majority of these young girls were already in the legal system. These are our community members. Many of these women face poverty and discrimination. When taking a look at racial disparities, about 32% of trafficking victims identified as black and 24% as Hispanic. These numbers demonstrate the corruption that is occurring in the sexual and reproductive health of our own community.

There is a juxtaposition of wealth, safety and opportunity with the hidden dangers that our youth encounter. Young girls walk down that area of Beach Boulevard you drive by faster. They wear long sleeves to cover their bruises and other signs of abuse. They aren’t old enough to consent; they didn’t choose this life. If you pay attention you, too, will see them, but we all know them. These victims are our minors; they are our friends; they are a part of our community.”

(Upstate New York from CBS News) “The former spiritual leader of a purported upstate New York self-improvement group that’s been called a cult and a pyramid scheme has been found guilty on seven counts including sex trafficking, racketeering, and conspiracy charges. Jurors began deliberating the case against Keith Raniere Wednesday morning and announced they had reached a verdict about four hours later. They were handed the case following a trial in Brooklyn federal court that has given a disturbing inside look inside the group, NXIVM. Since early May of 2019, jurors have been hearing testimony from what prosecutors say are former “sex slaves” who spoke about the torment of being branded with Raniere’s initials — their “supreme master” who was known as “Vanguard” and revered as “the smartest man in the world” among some followers. The women said they were duped into a joining a secretive NXIVM sub-sect known as DOS under the pretenses that it was a women’s empowerment group. But, they said they were forced by other women who were their “masters” to turn over “collateral,” including nude photographs, and groomed for sex with Raniere. “

(Denton, TX, June of 2019) A six-member panel of experts on sexual exploitation, including members of law enforcement and a trafficking survivor, addressed questions from the moderator and audience in the two-hour discussion aimed at educating the community about sexual exploitation. After an opening prayer, panelists addressed what they said are widespread misconceptions about trafficking being a strictly urban problem.

“I think the biggest challenge that we run into is that lack of public knowledge where people think ‘well, it doesn’t happen here,’” said John Kochan, a special agent in Homeland Security’s sex trafficking unit. Leslie Haight, a 22-year-old Denton resident, said she was surprised to learn that trafficking is a threat to the DFW community. “I didn’t know that it was in Denton [or] that sex trafficking was as common as it is,” Haight said. “I travel a lot so in China, that’s something that’s definitely in that area, but I didn’t think that locally, it was as big of a deal.”

Here’s what the professionals who face the task of destroying sex trafficking every day must do:

What Can We Do?

Under the Trump Administration, aggressive actions have been taken to rip apart groups and jail individuals who traffic all people, but especially our babies. The FBI aggressively leads the pack on finding, taking offenders off the streets, and rescuing those children among us who simply get trapped. Here’s how the FBI does it:

Summary

Last night, 4 of our grandchildren spent the night with us, ages 13 (twin girls and 1 boy) and the youngest is a boy age 10. I had just published Part 1 of this story and certainly was deep into the preparation of this Part II. From the perspective of spending days in research of Human Trafficking and seeing its horrors close up, I could not help but feel dread for these 4 kids that are part of MY family. I cannot fathom the travesty of losing any of them, especially to the world of Human Trafficking.

As I finalized this story, I could not help but think that certainly there are Nonni’s and Poppi’s all over the world that feel the same way as I about their own grandchildren. Probably reading and hearing Parts I and II of this story scares you. If so, you’re not alone. The scariest thing, though, is the knowledge that the criminals that perpetrate these crimes are not necessarily the shady old men who drive really slow through a neighborhood, see a young child on the sidewalk, and stop and say, “Hey, little boy, want a piece of candy?” Of course, that certainly happens. But most of these villans look just like you and me, live in middle-class neighborhoods, drive middle-class cars, and are just everyday people. Because of that, it’s tough to identify them before they strike.

What do we do? Be ever watchful; never take for granted when your children (no matter what their age) run to a public restroom or go inside a store by themselves while you wait in the car. These people are watching, and waiting, and watching…

A local mother told me the story a few weeks ago that right here in my city, she went with her young child to a chain discount store. As she and her little girl pushed a basket around the store, a really conspicuous couple calmly followed them for 20 minutes or so. When she finished shopping and she and her daughter were going to their car, the young man walked up behind her and asked, “Can I help you put your groceries in your car?” It scared her, thankfully. She immediately looked to see where her daughter was. She was horrified to see the young woman that was with the young man talking to her daughter on the other side of the car. The mom sidestepped around the man to hurriedly walk over to where her daughter was listening to the young woman. Without a word, she opened the car door — the passenger side — and slipped into the front seat holding her daughter. As she did, she firmly told the young man and woman to leave them alone. It startled the couple, and without a word, they quickly walked away.

Just think how quickly and how horribly that encounter could have been if that mother had not reacted the way she did. Unfortunately, every day there are hundreds if not thousands of such interactions happening at stores and restaurants and schools and sporting events, etc. which do NOT end so well for little girls and boys.

I challenge you to download this entire story and share it with friends. All American moms and dads and young men and women need to see and read it. We take our safety for granted never thinking something like this could happen to us. But it does. And when it does, it most often is final.

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