January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and my wish is that we all work to make a real difference every month and every day of the year because victims are exploited, coerced and trafficked every day.
What can we do?
We often see reports and read articles about the same type of human trafficking victims and we read the same lists of ways we can make a difference. I think we can all learn to discuss and report human trafficking in all of its forms and to think outside the box in terms of eliminating it.
What really causes human trafficking?
Although human trafficking is ultimately about supply and demand: I see human trafficking as an evil that gets its start many different ways. Racism, gender and educational inequality, and any and all causes of vulnerability in people, are what cause trafficking of human beings to begin and to also continue.
Who are we forgetting, in the discussion and reporting of human trafficking victims?
While medias focus on sex trafficking of children is important, it is crucial to focus on human trafficking of all populations, in all of its forms. Labor trafficked boys and men are often not discussed and underreported. Men are often trafficked in agricultural settings. The fact that agricultural work is often done in isolated areas on a seasonal basis by undocumented workers contributes to the exploitation and trafficking of the men doing the work. Until we solve the issue of undocumented men who are looking for work and trying to feed their hungry families, these men will continue to be taken advantage of and trafficked. According to an article in the Washington Post last October, “There isn’t a single shelter in the entire United States dedicated to male trafficking victims." So even if someone is trying to help male victims, often service providers struggle with, where do you put them?
We've all been conditioned to look for sex trafficked girls but have we forgotten the boys?
Boys sadly fall between the cracks and the identification of male victims is hard, not only because of the lack of awareness, or focus, from law enforcement and service providers, but also because of boys afraid to speak up. All victims of sex trafficking are reluctant to speak up. But for boys it sometimes feels even worse, due to the roles that society assigns them. And most are unwilling to come forward to service providers, which may include doctors, social workers, counselors, and court officials due to feelings of shame and social stigma. Even if victims do come forward what services are available? According to a recent study, out of the 40 informants contacted, only four out of 25 shelters for sexually exploited and trafficked children serve boys,
Services cost money, which means funders and donors. Without solid statistics on male victims of trafficking, funders will be unlikely to donate to shelters tailored to the needs of young male victims of sex trafficking. So when you don’t have statistics, it’s hard to get funding. If you don’t have funding, then you’re not helping victims and they all get re-victimized.
How can we gather true statistics on a criminal activity? When the public reads several statistics for the same thing it is confusing. How and who gathers this information? Who is ultimately responsible for reporting these statistics to the public? For public opinion to change about the very existence of human trafficking in all of its forms here in the United States there must be up to date solid verifiable reliable information and statistics on human trafficking available.
And I believe for those who seek to provide services for victims of human trafficking these two important issues must be addressed before any type of restoration or assistance can happen. First a complete de programming of the victim trafficker trauma bond must occur. At first contact with a victim a complete assessment of the victim by an expert in trauma based therapy needs to happen and if needed therapy must be put in place. Second, any criminal records the victim may have gotten while they were being trafficked must be vacated. Every kind of application asked about a criminal record in some way, for a person to move forward in life all criminal records must be vacated.
Through collaboration, tackling the issue in innovative ways and being transparent about how we gather data we can all together eradicate human trafficking for future generations.
And maybe one day there will be no need for a human trafficking awareness day.
Barbara Amaya, author, advocate, survivor
SeraphimGlobal Senior Technical Adviser
Human Trafficking Policy/After Care Services
Check out The Destiny of Zoe Carpenter-ebook about human trafficking at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo
Washington Times Communities Columnist
Our friend, Barbara Amaya, speaking and empowering others to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking!