Human trafficking is slavery. Men, women, and children of every race, nationality, and religion are sold, stolen, and bought.
According to the United States Department of Justice, human trafficking is the “third most profitable criminal activity. An estimated $9.5 billion is generated in annual revenue from all trafficking activities, with at least $4 billion attributed to the worldwide brothel industry.”
The United States Department of State estimates that 800,000 women,children and men are internationally trafficked every year. Most of these victims are enslaved in the sex trade industry, followed by domestic servitude and labor. Over 14,000 victims are trafficked into the United States annually, according to the United States Department of Justice, and an estimated 200,000 American children are potentially trafficked each year into the sex trade. At any given time, there are up to 27 million people enslaved throughout the world.
Since 2001, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has issued almost 1,100 certifications to human trafficking victims in the United States originating from over 40 countries. The largest contributing regions are Latin America and Asia. According to the Department of Justice, at 70% the majority of victims are female and half of all victims are children. Law enforcement agencies report that the majority of trafficking cases presented as prostitution. But victims of human trafficking have also been rescued from enslavement as domestic servants, child soldiers, child brides, beggars, manual laborers, sweatshops workers, and in landmine removal efforts. There are also baby trafficking rings that sell babies to both knowing and unknowing adoptive parents. Mail order brides can also be a form of human trafficking depending on the actual circumstances of the arrangement.
The National Institute of Justice asserts victims of human trafficking are in desperate need of vital services with 96-98% in need of housing, medical attention, legal services, food, and transportation. In the United States, because these victims are often foreigners, less educated, and face the contention of an exceedingly organized network of crime, they are extremely ‘vulnerable to re-victimization’. The quicker and better assistance offered to these individuals, the greater the chance of re-victimization prevention.
Some of the immediate problems facing these children are mental health concerns, sexually transmitted diseases, poor health, physical abuse, and drug abuse. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, victims of human trafficking can suffer from a multitude of long-term effects:
- Sleeping and eating disorders
- Sexually transmitted diseases/HIV/AIDS
- Physical ailments: back, cardiovascular, or respiratory problems
- Guilt and shame
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Stockholm Syndrome
According to the United States Department of State:
“A study of women trafficked for prostitution into the European Union found that 95% of victims had been violently assaulted or coerced into a sexual act, and over 60% of victims reported fatigue, neurological symptoms, gastrointestinal problems, back pain and gynecological infections. A nine-country assessment first published in the Journal of Trauma Practice concluded that 73% of women used in prostitution were physically assaulted, 89% wanted to escape, 63% were raped, and 68% met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Additional psychological consequences common among prostituted women include dissociative and personality disorders, anxiety and depression. Another study in 2001 revealed that 86% of women trafficked within their countries and 85% of women trafficked across international borders suffer from severe depression. As with sex trafficking, those who are trafficked for labor also suffer physical and mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder due to physical assaults and beatings, and depression that elevates the risk of suicide. Victims of labor servitude have limited ability to determine the conditions in which they work, which may put them at higher risk of physical and mental health damage.” Anyone can potentially fall prey to human traffickers. Before enslavement, many victims earned higher educational degrees. Many victims were professionals. Others were simply seeking a better life when they fell prey. Regardless of demographics or the circumstance of their trafficking, the common thread among all trafficking victims is the deprivation of inherent human rights and dignity. They are frequently subjected to physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse. They are considered possessions to be used and exploited repeatedly for the traffickers’ gain. They are threatened, coerced, and lied to. These degradations, combined with enslavement and inhumane living conditions, often lead to severe physical and mental deterioration. Although these victims are a commodity to the traffickers, they are nonetheless considered expendable. They are consequently not given adequate care. Without proper care and essential services, these innocent victims will be less likely to live hopeful, healthy, and productive lives.