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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Super Bowl XLVIII is coming to New Jersey in February, 2014 and it will be a boon to the New Jersey tourism industry. Unfortunately, it will also bring with it a major increase in human trafficking, because wherever there are large concerts or sports events, traffickers will be there, too, selling children, youth, and women (and even men) to people who gather around such events specifically to connect with traffickers.
What is human trafficking? There are several kinds of human trafficking, which is really modern day slavery by a different name. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.
The Sussex County Division of Community and Youth Services is committed to educating its partner agencies and the community at large about human trafficking issues: what it is, who are the victims, how to recognize possible signs and what to do if you suspect that someone has been trafficked.
A few facts about trafficking:
- 1 out of every 3 runaways is trafficked within 48 hours of leaving home (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Congressional Testimony, 2010)
- 2.4 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80% of them are being exploited as sexual slaves (United Nations news release, April, 2012)
- The United States is estimated to have the second highest rate of sexual exploitation in the world, with between 244,000-325,000 people trafficked, and second only to India at 400,000 each year (UNICEF Press Release, 2001)
- The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14, average age for boys is 11 to 13 (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March, 2011)
Who are the most likely victims of human trafficking? Statistics show that youth who are homeless, have run away, have been victims of some kind of abuse or are involved with the child welfare system are more likely to be victims of human trafficking than youth with none of these experiences. The U.S. Department of State notes that the stigma and marginalization of people with disabilities makes them also more vulnerable to become the victims of trafficking because their educational and employment levels sometimes make them more likely to be on the street. Sadly, for many of these individuals, traffickers often feel that they are less likely to raise an alarm, seek help, or be an effective witness in a legal proceeding.
Trafficking is not limited to children and youth. Adult women and men are also often likely to be victims of trafficking, especially those facing severe economic hardship who may respond to promises of jobs in other places. Many of these women may find themselves forced into the sex trade. Other women and men may find themselves in forced labor situations, which may include involuntary domestic servitude or debt bondage. Domestic workers are often the victims of domestic servitude and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to debt bondage.
Where are we most likely to come across trafficking victims? The short answer is anywhere. Restaurants, nail salons, farms, and factories are all places where labor trafficking may occur. Large concerts and sporting events are major hubs of human trafficking. Children and youth that we might see on the street or in a store and not know that they are homeless, runaway or abused may be victims.
How will we know if someone is being trafficked? Below is a partial list of some of the most prevalent indicators. We do need to remember that not everyone who exhibits these signs is a trafficking victim, and an individual who shows only one or two of these signs may be unlikely to be a victim.
Common Work and Living Conditions: (National Human Trafficking Resource Center): The individual(s) in question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as s/he wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where s/he is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city s/he is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
So what do we do if we suspect we are witnessing someone in a trafficking situation? Fortunately, New Jersey has the toughest human trafficking laws in the country, and has set up a hotline to take reports of suspected trafficking.
If there is any suspicion of trafficking, the best thing to do is to call the 24/7 hotline number and let them investigate: 855-END-HT-NJ (855-363-4865).
Other options are to call the national 24/7 hour 365 day a year hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888, text BeFree (233733) or complete an online report at http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/report-a-tip to make a confidential report relating to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors that may indicate trafficking, and/or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911.
For more information, go to www.polarisproject.org .