The movie Tricked defines human trafficking as “exploitation of vulnerability.” This is an apt description.
Vulnerable is a great word to describe the victims of the modern slave trade. Victims can stem from many different socio-economic backgrounds and walks of life. Because no obvious pattern appears on the surface, people often miss the signs of what may be right in front of them. However, if we dig deeper, we can see a common thread.
What is the profile of a victim?
There is a susceptibility to the trafficker’s manipulation that would only take root if certain criteria are in place.
PAST ABUSE: If someone has suffered any sort of abuse, whether physical, mental or sexual, it leaves a wound that traffickers instantly notice. Low self-esteem that can result from these issues plays a part in the willingness to believe the trafficker is genuine in their initial meetings when he showers affection and gifts.
DISPLACED or RUNAWAY: The current statistic is that a pimp will pick up runaways within 24 hours of leaving home. It is almost like a radar. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
“A study in Chicago showed that 56% of prostituted women were initially runaways and similar numbers have been identified for male populations.”
It is worthy to note that, even though 80% of victims of human trafficking are girls and women, the other 20% are boys. This fact is rarely the focus.
FEELS TRAPPED: The link between prostitution and human trafficking is very real. The perception that prostitution is always a “choice” is a myth. Even if it begins as a “choice,” the girls feel trapped and do not feel that they can get out of it alive because the trafficker knows everything about them – including where their families are. It makes the threat of violence to themselves and others very real.
The above references the domestic side of the trade. However the NHTRC reports that: “32% of calls with high indicators of human trafficking referenced foreign nationals.”
It is interesting to note that the United States ranks in the top 3 as a destination country for modern day slaves. Typically the far reaching network of people that ship the girls here indebt the girls to them by stating that they paid exorbitant fees to get them here; the arrangement is they have to work off the debt. Of course the debt can never be paid fully, and the scenario is very much exaggerated to exert control.
All of these factors point to the same result: VULNERABILITY. Getting to know the victim and what she/he looks like is necessary so that we can identify who it is that we can help. Further education is key to ending modern day slavery.