As I have blogged about here in the past (March 14, 2013; June 2, 2016), we take human trafficking seriously. We investigate and charge cases as we come upon them (none at Great Lakes Crossings Mall). And we do what we can to educate and inform the public to help us in the fight. To do that I want to get serious about the most common sources of victimization so that the root causes can been seen and addressed.
In local cases we have investigated, and in our study of professional literature we have seen that human trafficking involves vulnerable people. They may be vulnerable for a variety of reasons. We have investigated cases where vulnerable individuals have been recruited outside of drug treatment centers by individuals who pretend to care about them and then reintroduce them to drugs to control them. These victims have little or no support system, whether as a result of their drug addictions or they are runaway or homeless. Knowing that, we have put extra emphasis on locating runaway kids when we receive reports. There are resources and we try to help families find what works for them.
This is a serious crime everywhere and we have charged cases of trafficking. Here is some information on the topic to learn more from the Polaris Project:
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While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking. While not inclusive of all vulnerabilities, the following highlights a few risk factors for victims of human trafficking.
Runaway and homeless youth are vulnerable to trafficking. A study in Chicago found that 56 percent of prostituted women were initially runaway youth and similar numbers have been identified for male populations. Runaway and homeless youth lack a strong supportive network and runaway to unfamiliar environments are particularly at risk of trafficking. Runaway youth are often approached by traffickers at transportation hubs, shelters or other public spaces. These traffickers pretend to be a boyfriend or significant other, using feigned affection and manipulation to elicit commercial sex or services from the victim.
Foreign nationals who are trafficked within the United States face unique challenges that may leave them more susceptible to trafficking and exploitation. In 2013, 32 percent of calls with high indicators of human trafficking to the NHTRC referenced foreign nationals. Recruiters located in home countries frequently require such large recruitment and travel fees that victims become highly indebted to the recruiters and traffickers. These fees are inflated far beyond cost in order to create economic instability and dependency on the new employer or trafficker. Traffickers leverage the non-portability of many work visas as well as the lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding in order to control and manipulate victims.
Individuals who have experienced violence and trauma in the past are more vulnerable to future exploitation, as the psychological effect of trauma is often long-lasting and challenging to overcome. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war and conflict or social discrimination may be targeted by traffickers, who recognize the vulnerabilities left by these prior abuses. Violence and abuse may be normalized or beliefs of shame or unworthiness lead to future susceptibility to human trafficking.
Recognizing the signs of human trafficking:
Common Work and Living Conditions:
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health:
- Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by employer
- Appears malnourished or shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control:
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)