Human Trafficking 103:
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Human Trafficking victims are all, or mostly, foreign nationals.
Citizens of the United States of America can be victims of human trafficking on our soil. People from other nations are certainly brought to the United States to be sold for sex and labor; they need our help, too. It’s important, however, not to overlook the women, children, and men born, raised, and exploited in America.
Human Trafficking requires movement.
An individual can be trafficked without leaving their house. It’s easy to equate the crime of smuggling with the crime of trafficking. Smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders; trafficking is a crime against a person.
In cases of parents or other family members selling children for sex, or romantic partners selling their wife or girlfriend, victims often never have to leave their home to be trafficked. Sometimes, they’re trafficked in their hometown or even while attending their own high school.
Human Trafficking always involves organized crime.
A trafficker may be a sibling who sells their sister or a “friend” who sells a peer. Some traffickers may just have two or three women they sell regularly. While gangs and organized crime organizations are certainly heavily involved in human trafficking, it’s important not to overlook smaller scale operations that could easily be run within a family that lives next door to you.
Traffickers are all strangers and/or abductors.
Perpetrators of human trafficking are much more commonly people whom the victim knows – friends, family, and intimate partners. These people build, or take advantage of an already established, relationship of trust to coerce victims into a trafficking situation.
The interstate highway system is the largest factor in raising state’s human trafficking rates.
Reality for many victims of human trafficking looks like being sold in their home state, their hometown, or in their family’s home – no highways needed. While it’s true that some traffickers keep victims on a moving circuit between cities all over the United States, some traffickers never take the people they sell out of town.
Human Trafficking statistics are well documented and easy to gather.
At this point, reliable, hard-and-fast human trafficking statistics are difficult to come by in Oklahoma and everywhere else. Trafficking is underreported and underdetected. Trafficking situations are often mislabeled as another crime such as prostitution or domestic violence. Therefore, all human trafficking “statistics” in existence today are merely estimates.
As more victims are recovered out of trafficking, properly identified, and extended protection – and more researchers dedicate time to studying human trafficking – we’ll see more accurate statistics. For now, treat human trafficking “statistics” you see or hear as educated guesses.
Traffickers often stalk and abduct victims in public retail venues.
Stories are spreading like wildfire on social media about people being followed around Target or Hobby Lobby by someone who seems like they’re up to no good. They express fear that someone was following them in order to abduct and sell them into sex trafficking. These are not scenarios that are commonly reported by victims of trafficking.
We should all practice being aware of our surroundings and personal safety planning. Predators of all kinds could certainly follow someone around a store, with malicious intent. We should certainly report someone exhibiting threatening behavior to appropriate authorities.
However, traffickers are more likely to reach out to someone and develop a ruse of a relationship with them, as a peer or romantically. Traffickers tend to target those who appear vulnerable, usually exhibiting low self-esteem. Traffickers often recruit people online by lying about a dream job or creating a fake romantic relationship.