Being that I work overseas, you might expect that I would use today to talk about Trafficking in Persons in the country I live in currently (Albania). Or, the country I just came from (Kazakhstan). Or, the country where I did research on human trafficking (Chile). Or, the country where I knew children who were trafficked (Moldova). But, today I won’t do that. I want to talk about human trafficking int he country I call home (USA).
The sad truth is that human trafficking continues to be a problem in the US. Yes, in large cities: New York, LA, Boston. But also in rural areas of the country, small towns, suburbia.
A few jobs ago, I worked with some victims of human trafficking. Men who were lured to the US with promises of jobs and money to send home and instead ended up working in slave like conditions in Middle America with their passports confiscated and the door to the house they lived in padlocked from the outside. After several months, someone put in a tip and they were freed. They were freed, but they weren’t compensated for their losses. They were free, but they still had to explain to wives and children what happened to them. They have been free for years now, but I am sure their experience still haunts them. Honestly, their stories still haunt me.
An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons)
These numbers are staggering and the realities are bleak. However, in the US, there are places you can report suspected cases of trafficking. Polaris Project suggests:
If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- 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 health care
- Appears malnourished
- 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)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story