Six specialists from a variety of fields share their insights about modern-day slavery.
Global awareness campaigns are stronger than ever thanks to social media. Let’s take Twitter for example. Rotary International has had tremendous success spreading their #EndPolioNow mission and most recently I’ve discovered the Indigenous Rights Revolution through their #IdleNoMore campaign. With social media however, can come a whole lot of misinformation and most of the time it’s skewed towards the extreme. As my finger is on the pulse of all things human trafficking such skewing in this field has been most evident to me. It’s true that even the spread of misinformation can lead to positive results. My Twitter feed often lights up with some horrendous statistic that has no source but certainly pulls on emotions and leads to more people getting involved in the fight. Still, nothing works in a fight quite like the truth. In a physical altercation truth screams and there are immediate results. In an awareness campaign like the fight against human trafficking, however, truth’s voice can get lost in the current. So I cast a question into the current, “What are the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking?” and here’s what I reeled in:
Human trafficking is a trending cause in philanthropy, and has been for the past twelve years. It makes sense: a combination of modern-day technological and geopolitical developments, from the Internet to the opening of national borders, has proliferated its existence to a staggering degree. There are many common misconceptions associated with human trafficking, but perhaps the most pervasive is the most fundamental: what forms does human trafficking take?
Most people think human trafficking has two faces: sex and labor. There is good reason for this. Sex and labor are some of the most common forms in which human trafficking manifests itself. Both are also easily understood across cultures and classes (labor trafficking is often associated with slavery, human trafficking with prostitution). However, the UN defines human trafficking as “an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”
Coercing a person for purposes of exploiting them reaches far beyond just sex and labor exploitation. A colleague of mine, former CNN political director Christine Dolan, has categorized human trafficking into eight faces: sex, labor, child soldiers, sex tourism, Internet pedo-criminality (child pornography), organ, skin and ritual abuse/torture. Child soldiers and child pornography have gained momentum in the public consciousness as of late due to Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign and Dateline’s popular “To Catch A Predator” television show. Unfortunately, the remaining four faces of human trafficking remain largely unknown despite their weighty existence.
Our lack of understanding is dangerous because to the extent we are uninformed about what human trafficking actually is, the forms it takes, where it’s being perpetrated and why it’s happening, we will never maximize our potential for impact. Instead, we will slump into asking the wrong questions, investing in the wrong nonprofits, and raising awareness for the wrong reasons. Our lack of knowledge stems partly from a lack of initiative and partly from a lack of transmission of information; the first concerns donors, the second concerns nonprofits, governments, companies, and institutions. To combat our misperceptions, we must first take the initiative to learn about the problem itself, so we can better know how and where to invest ourselves. Secondly, we must research those organizations and institutions who are already knee-deep in tackling human trafficking with an aim to invest our voice, time and money into one or two of them. The journey doesn’t end there. Human trafficking is constantly changing, as are all social issues. Doing research on the front end is important, but ongoing education about the problem will have a decisive impact on our potential for change.
– Michael C. Phillip is the founder and CEO of Votimo, an early-stage startup that enables people to share their voice, time, and money concerning the causes they care about most. He was most recently a speaker at the Children in Slavery Task Force’s Practical Solutions to End Human Trafficking: A Shared Global Shame at Georgetown University.
One of the biggest misconceptions of modern day slavery/human trafficking is that it only goes on in other countries, as well as the belief that ordinary people cannot do anything about it. People are not surprised that it goes on in places like Southeast Asia and India, but they are shocked to find out that it is very prevalent here in the United States.
It is estimated that close to 15,000 to 18,000 people enter the United States each year as slaves. Human trafficking also does not just go on in urban areas, but also in rural and suburban areas. Much of the population does not know that slavery very well may be going on in their own communities.
The misconception that this problem only exists in other countries comes from a lack of reporting of this in the media and in society in general. A way to fight this would be for more people–churches, colleges, universities, the media and private citizens–to all work to raise awareness.
People also do not know how to identify slavery going on right in front of them and what to do if they encounter the situations. Someone could possibly be a tremendous help just by knowing signs and then calling the Polaris Project human trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 if they see something suspicious.
Educating the public that this exists (even in their own neighborhoods) and that there is something simple that they can do about it would go a long way.
– Samuel Crockett is an instructor of political science, humanities and history. While attaining his Master’s Degree in 2005 in Government with a Public Policy concentration, he interned with a team through Dr. Olivia McDonald that researched various aspects of human trafficking, specifically the psychological rehabilitation of the survivors.
How much does the general public really know about human trafficking? Do they know that according to Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky, that trafficking for sexual exploitation is not only one of the fastest-growing criminal industries, but that it generates $27.8 billion dollars per year? Probably not. Do they know that the average age of a child first forced into the sex slave trade, girl or boy, is 13? I bet they don’t. Or that sexual slavery isn’t the only form of trafficking? Importing and exporting vulnerable people of any age or gender, for sexploitation or for labor purposes is considered human trafficking – and by most recent tallies, there are 12.3 million slaves (male and female) around the world.
The biggest misconception of all is that the victim is a willing participant in the enslavement. What most people don’t consider when they see a potential victim of trafficking, is the psychological manipulation and threats of violence and force that the predators use to keep victims in thrall. One of the most important things we can do for our children, our teens and for vulnerable people everywhere, is to publicize the tricks of the predator’s trade, support law enforcement in its efforts to hunt down these predators and rescue their victims, and to be vigilant in our efforts to educate so that our children, teens and families in economic distress are not easy targets.
Advocacy for victims, potential and actual, is what prompted me to become a filmmaker. To give a voice to the stories that we rarely hear is the heart and soul behind my two short independent films The Sacrifice and Finding Hope. That’s what I hope to accomplish with the upcoming TV series I’ve created – sharing stories based on the truth of those whose lives have been affected by trafficking.
– Diane Namm is an award-winner filmmaker and founder and producer of Lady of the Canyon. She is the author of over 65 published children’s books and YA novels and she produces, directs and writes for stage, film, TV and the web. Her latest project is a television series based on true stories, developed to help combat the international and domestic epidemic of trafficking and commercial exploitation of children and adults.
Misconceptions about trafficking? First, that it doesn’t happen here in America. It’s happening right now in every city and in every state in our nation. Second, we are not prostitutes or “whores.” We are victims and survivors of a crime! Third, although it was well done and the publicity helped shed light on our cause, human trafficking is not like the movie Taken.
Wake up America. The enemy is at your front door, in your computer via internet false modeling scams used to lure innocent children. We need to ask the right questions….
– Katariina Rosenblatt, LLM, PhD abd, is a survivor and the founder of There is H.O.P.E. For Me, an organization that helps survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking Heal, find Opportunities, Purpose and Empowerment.
The most common misconception about human trafficking is that its only purpose is for sexual exploitation and that only young women are vulnerable to traffickers. The reality is that the aims of human trafficking are for the sex trade as well as domestic workers and even for parents wanting to “adopt” children without having to endure due process.
The most important misconception about human trafficking is that it can be solved by the current definition of trafficking, i.e., to be considered “illegal- human trafficking” the trafficked person must be “coerced.” However, many victims do not need to be coerced but rather they go with the traffickers willingly because their country of origin offers no quality of life greater than that which the person was born into, i.e., the cure for human trafficking isn’t more legislation it’s more economic development and productive educational opportunities.
– Susan Farley is considered a senior policy advisor on issues of human trafficking and forced migration, and investor-donor relations in emerging markets/post conflict societies. Her work includes game theoretic rational choice models on trafficking that include the participation of actual traffickers and it has been used in the legal defense strategy of both prosecutors and defense teams debating trafficking.
I do not know what misconceptions there are about human trafficking, but as an industry standard bearer in the field of child recovery, I can say that human trafficking is the largest billion dollar criminal industry, shadowed only by the drug cartels.
Human traffickers are basically predators who prey upon and snatch our innocent children away to profit in their sex trades, sweat shops or menial outdoor labor.
Traffickers are everywhere. There are more predominant areas where one would find a disproportionate amount but they are thriving all over the globe. Every five minutes, a child goes missing. Almost 900,000 children go missing each year. Some of these are at first labled as runaways but in reality they were trafficked. Some families in certain parts of the world sell their children into the trade.
Human trafficking is a cancer and will not be cured if most people keep looking the other way. This is the worst kind of crime. Innocent children put into captivity, often beaten, drugged and traded like a baseball card to other traffickers. Some are killed when their abductors feel they have lost their value or are too cumbersome. I have been in the corridors of squalor around the globe looking and finding these children of ours and re-uniting them with their families. There’s no greater feeling in the world.
My agency has recovered hundreds of children and three times as many adults who seemingly fell off the face of the earth. These victims are out there crying for help but their voices cannot be heard. If someone cannot afford my services, I consider many pro bono cases each year. I do not know a greater accomplishment than saving a child’s life.
– Scott Bernstein is the CEO and Founder of Child Recovery International.