Victims of human trafficking are recruited through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of exploitation. The crime affects victims from all walks of life locally, regionally and internationally. Human traffickers target an individual’s vulnerability to feed their enterprise.
Poverty and culturally accepted discrimination are common underlining vulnerability factors which increase the risk for human trafficking. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from traffickers because of their delicate migratory status, which often leaves them without access to community support or legitimate forms of employment and social protection among other needs. Victims of labor trafficking are often forced to work in deplorable conditions in various sectors such as agriculture and hospitality (including illicit massage/spa locations), as well as in more informal work situations such as domestic servitude (i.e. housekeeping, yard work and childcare).
An often overlooked connection is that between sex trafficking, perhaps the most talked about form of human trafficking, and the commercial sex industry, including porn. Society does not often correlate the two and may even justify its benefits or avert the conversation altogether. The question often comes up regarding victims, “why don’t they just leave their situation?." Sex trafficking victims are manipulated by their trafficker who will often resort to psychological threats and abuse, if not also physical, to keep a victim unable to escape their exploitative situation.
Data shows that the United States is one of the leading countries in pornography consumption, often user-generated. This means, that individual users are uploading the amateur content to outlets that offer this type of unchecked content which often includes minors (younger than 18 years of age). Beyond any moral argument related to porn, a danger lies when an individual in any of these videos is not participating voluntarily, especially when a minor is involved which would be legally deemed child sexual abuse.
This is a complex matter, but simple questions and accountability as to what we are consuming every day, can help us decide if we are indeed respecting the dignity of all human beings we encounter in our daily lives. A leading organization in the U.S. to learn more on the topic: www.polarisproject.org
Monthly column written for St. Joseph Catholic Church, Tampa, FL