The Reality of Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is perhaps one of the most fastest-growing profitable crimes worldwide today. Sex Trafficking is defined as someone who uses force, fraud, or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a sex act. This profitable and organized crime is flourishing because there is serious demand within the “business”. Victims of Sex trafficking include women, men and even young children of all races, genders, and ages. Citizens are not aware that this issue is thriving even in the safest communities and neighborhoods.

There are many situations in which one could find themselves at risk of being caught in a human trafficking scheme. The first and what could seem the most obvious is prostitution. Although prostitution is illegal in the United States, apart from the twenty-one brothels in Nevada, it is still prevalent in many parts of the U.S. Many prostitutes, or sex workers, start off as only that but end up being coerced and find themselves in a much bigger trafficking scheme. Those who work in the prostitution industry may get started for various reasons but getting out has proven difficult due to a loss of profit from their employers as well as difficulty getting a legal job due to criminal backgrounds. A majority of sex workers are lured or trafficked into prostitution. Many understand the socioeconomic circumstances and the lack of alternatives for women who enter into prostitution as most are single mothers or battered wives. (Farley par. 20) Tourism is another big platform in which trafficking can take place. When in a foreign country or an area one is unfamiliar with, the possibility of being lured somewhere new or getting lost is increased. With prostitution being legal in 49 countries around the world the demand for new “products”, or woman or children, in countries outside the U.S. is of greater importance to the traffickers. “In New York City, 45% of commercially exploited victims were exploited in hotels.” (Carolin 11)

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Social media and other online platforms have become a very prominent way traffickers are able to target their victims. With the ability to connect with anyone at any time, in places all over the world,  it has become easier and far more efficient for these organizations to organize their crime. Robert Hannigan, Director of Communication Headquarters for the British Government, said that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, are the “commend-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals.” (Rhodes 6). Before the digital age, there was almost always a face to face transaction when these organizations would meet someone, putting a face and description to the captor or trafficker. With social media and online social platforms people are able to lure victims by using a completely false identity possibly even someone else’s picture as their own. Not only are these criminal organizations able to solicit on the web, they are also able to sell their services much easier. “Fight the new drug claims that 25% of all search engine requests are for pornographic material.” (Rhodes 9). With the web being worldwide, traffickers are able to sell market such things as prostitution and escort services in as many places as possible and at any time of the day or night. Many of these organizations use their own victims to market themselves and their services as well as lure new victims; many use false identities as well.

Human trafficking generates very lucrative profits every year. The international labor organization estimates that human trafficking generates $150 billion of profits illegally around the world each year. (Human trafficking… par. 2) The organizations are very discreet and with such little prosecution and risk for the organizations, the businesses are actually thriving. The sad fact about trafficking is it is not limited to a certain demographic or even geographically, meaning the market for it is worldwide.

The victims of sex trafficking go through mental and physical abuse, but there are many cases where it started as a casual relationship. Many women get wrapped up in a not so bad relationship with a not so good person. It can start off as just cleaning for someone or performing favors and then being offered to have sex with someone else for money. This can happen after being pressured or made to feel less if they do not do it. Victims face multiple physical and health risks when being trafficked. These include being far more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease or infection, vaginal or anal tearing, as well as head trauma as a result of being abused or tortured. Food deprivation is also a very common sign of malnutrition that is common with those forced into sex work. These girls or children also have to worry about psychological damage. These victims are usually psychologically abused purposely to lower their self-esteem and made to feel helpless.  Another huge issue is drug addiction. Victims with drug habits are commonly coerced with drugs to perform acts they usually would not do in order to obtain these drugs. Others “use substances to cope or escape their desperate situations.” (Deshpande 12)

There are many programs and systems in place to prevent trafficking and to rescue victims. Most trafficking cases and illegal sex work crimes are dealt with on a state level so local law enforcement are considered the first responders most of the time for these cases and can even prevent some of these tragedies by looking deeper into cases that may seem like regular crimes. Our law enforcement is trained to deal with not only the criminal part of it but also on how to work with different victims. This prevention can become difficult due to our lack of knowledge on how bad the problem actually is. According to the National institute of justice the reported amount of victims trafficked into the United States has varied from as low as 14,500 all the way to 50,000. (McGough 4) Although the government is able to make rough estimates, it is impossible to know the exact amount for a variety of reasons. One of them being that victims fail to report it or come forward probably due to either shame and embarrassment or from the fear of being charged with a crime related to illegal sex work.

Sex Trafficking is an issue that continues to rise and thrive worldwide. Even with major organizations to help prevent this crime from happening, it will most likely to continue to happen for a very long time. It is important to be cautious of who you trust, who and what is around you, and to take extra measures to be safe when you are out in public.

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