Response to a comment- Info on TVPA

I got a response to my post “Power of Language”, that is worth a read and a thought.  That said, there are a few points I would like to dispute.

1-      There is a lot of confusion in general over what it takes to determine if a person is a victim or not. Unlike old slavery laws, the TVPA does not require force.  However, it is not as simple as Ken presents.  Recruitment is NOT enough.  Under the law, it must be proven that force, fraud, or coercion has taken place. To understand what these looks like, I will give a few examples:

a.       FORCE- this is the typical situation that people envision when they think about slavery.  It constitutes the people locked in a house and beaten into submission.

b.      FRAUD- In my experience, this has been one of the most common.  This means that families in Cambodia were promised that if they rented out their children, the kids would get an education along with working in the house. Or, people abroad who come to the states on legal work visas, but when they arrive, their employers take away their documents, threaten them with deportation, force them to do work they did not sign up for, and/or garnish their wages.

c.       COERCION- This is probably the hardest to understand of all the options and perhaps the hardest to convict.  Basically, it entails the traffickers having some way of controlling the victim without using force. In one example from Florida, this was taking a woman from the Caribbean and cutting of a piece of her hair.  Because of the woman’s religious beliefs, she thought that the traffickers could create a voodoo doll to hurt her if she didn’t do what they asked.  In this way, the traffickers could control her seemingly without direct contacts.  

2-      As for the numbers of victims found in the US.  I agree that the numbers are lower than those projected; however, they are also significantly lower than are found.  According to the law, only people who are willing to help prosecute are eligible to be considered victims.  For example, in a case I was closely linked to, over ¾ of the victims choose to go home to their families instead of helping with prosecution.  This was a large number of people! They made this choice for several reasons…. They hadn’t seen their families in some time and staying to prosecute meant that it might be another year or so until they could.  Additionally, several of them had fears that their families might be harassed if they helped with prosecution. In fact, several of those who stayed, did have problems of their families being harassed. Moreover, since the families are in the victims’ home country (assuming international trafficking), there is nothing that can be done by the US government to protect them.

3-      Below TVPA, not all prostitution is trafficking. Although, all prostitution of minors is trafficking.  Also, just from having worked abroad in several of the source countries—I can say that those who went to the US and Europe to work in prostitution were coerced or tricked into doing it.  They did not know what they were getting into, but were desperate to try and make money.  This desperation made them take risks that they didn’t want to and often led to them being trafficked.

4-      Finally, lets remember that trafficking is not just sex trafficking.  Too often, it is portrayed that way both in the media and in the money destined for research.  Too often we forget about the victims of labor trafficking. The men and women and children who are working in sweatshops, in peoples homes, on the roadsides, and around us.  


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