Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, currently ranking between weapons sales and drug sales. You may assume that sex trafficking is not a big problem in our corner of the world, but here’s the truth: Around 40% of human trafficking in the U.S. happens in the Southeast. Alexa James, CEO of Blanket Fort Hope, gave us her expert perspective on how to identify and prevent human trafficking.
What are the types of human trafficking? There are three main types: labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and organ harvesting. Labor and sex trafficking are much more prevalent than organ harvesting.
Who does human trafficking affect? Victims represent every ethnicity and come from every background and social class, with the average age of entry being 11-14. The vast majority of domestic trafficking victims come from broken homes and low-income backgrounds. However, there are exceptions— some victims come from very affluent homes, with families that fall into the upper-class.
- The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 11-14 years old.
- 99% of human trafficking victims are never identified.
- The average life expectancy of a victim in human trafficking is 7 years.
- Approximately 300,000 teens become victims of human trafficking every year.
How does trafficking happen? Self-esteem issues tend to be at an all-time high for children and teens, and they love getting attention. Traffickers know this, and they prey on it. It is as simple as a trafficker connecting with a young person through social media or online gaming, obtaining their personal information, and scheduling a time to meet. Once the meeting is scheduled, traffickers entice their potential victims with drugs, alcohol, or luxurious gifts to earn their trust. It is not uncommon for traffickers to manipulate children into sending them nude photos (sexting) and then blackmailing them with these images. When parents properly monitor what their children are watching and doing on the internet, we will certainly see a decrease in child trafficking in the U.S. However, for children who come from severely broken homes, it is not as simple. Sometimes these children are trafficked by family members, which complicates the issue regarding preventative measures to take.
How can I spot human trafficking?
The best way is to be educated and know the signs. Here are a few of the most common signs of mental and/or physical abuse to look for:
• Sudden or dramatic changes in behavior
How can I report trafficking?
When you spot a potential trafficking situation, there are a few steps to take.
1. Do not feel that you have to be 100% positive that it’s a trafficking situation before you contact the police. Remember: You could drastically change a person’s life forever if you speak up.
2. Look for identifiable markers, such as approximate ages of the people involved, tattoos, anything about the vehicle (if there is one), and of course, the signs of trafficking. All of this will be helpful when you call the police.
3. Traffickers are dangerous individuals, so do not try to engage with them or their victims.
Keep in mind that your phone call could provide the missing link in an on-going investigation that will lead to the rescue of the victim(s) and the prosecution of the trafficker(s).
Alexa is a recent graduate of Highlands College with an emphasis on human trafficking, women’s ministry, and missions work. Her time in this program of study fed her passion for social justice and led her to Blanket Fort Hope. Alexa is a recipient of an FBI award as well as National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) recognition for her work with trafficking victims. Check out www.blanketforthope.org for more information on how you can get involved and make a difference in the lives of human trafficking victims.
Blanket Fort Hope also has a crisis line: 1-888-373-7888, or text HELP to 233733.
FOCUS addresses adolescent risk behaviors and has grown into one of the most recognized prevention programs in the State of Alabama. If you would like more information on FOCUS, please visit www.thefocusprogram.com and/or contact Sue Jones, M.Ed., program director, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or directly at (256) 453-0655.