We are losing the global fight against human and sex trafficking. What’s worse, an increasing number of children are being successfully targeted.
According to the 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, released in February by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the share of children among detected trafficking persons has tripled while the share of boys has increased five times in the past 15 years. Girls are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation, while boys are being used for forced labor.
The pandemic has only exacerbated this urgent problem by giving traffickers more opportunities to prey on the most vulnerable.
“Millions of women, children and men worldwide are out of work, out of school and without social support in the continuing COVID-19 crisis, leaving them at greater risk of human trafficking,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.
More than just a ‘third-world problem’
When they think about sex trafficking, many Americans consider it to be a problem “for the rest of the world.” That’s a huge myth.
In fact, statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline showed a 25% jump in human trafficking cases from 2017 to 2018 (the latest figures available). This includes sex and labor trafficking.
Of the more than 23,500 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2018, 1 in 7 were likely children being trafficked.
Many people also assume that the majority of those being trafficked are undocumented immigrants. In actuality, most domestic trafficked persons are U.S. citizens.
Child trafficking occurs in all 50 U.S. states. Sadly, each year, an estimated 200,000 children in the U.S. are at risk for being trafficked into the sex industry.
It’s also a misconception that these victims are forced into sex trafficking through kidnapping or other violent means. More often, traffickers use manipulative methods to lure in their victims, including offers of food, clothes, attention, friendship, love, and a seemingly safe place to sleep.
How to spot signs of trafficking
Human trafficking happens all around us, all of the time. It can be hard to detect. Here are some red flags that could alert you to a trafficking situation, according to the State Department:
- Person is staying with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in a cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Prostitution while under 18
You could consider asking these questions to investigate further:
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?
It is important to know that you should not attempt to “rescue” anyone that you suspect might be caught in a human or sex trafficking scheme. It could be dangerous to do so. Alert local law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip.
At For The Children, our mission is to create a world free of family-induced childhood trauma. We are taking this rise in child sex trafficking very seriously and are training our staff in ways to spot and prevent sex trafficking. You can do your part by keeping watch in your local area. You may be the one call that saves a child’s life.