There are many different crimes than fall under the Human Trafficking umbrella that most people wouldn’t even consider. One of the most common misconceptions about trafficking is that the majority of trafficking victims are women, but LGBT youth and runaway homeless youth are also a large portion of trafficking victims. This problem is so widespread in America that some victims aren’t aware that they are being trafficked in the first place.
There are many myths revolving around this epidemic which cause people to have conflicting opinions on trafficking. Kristen Leanderson Abrams, a representative from a group called Great Decisions, spoke at a seminar in the Boston Public Library to debunk some of these myths and get the story straight. Human trafficking is in fact a big problem, especially in the U.S. Around 70% of trafficking victims are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residence. One of the most common misconceptions of trafficking is that the victim must be smuggled across a border, but someone can be trafficked in the community they grew up in, or even by their own parents.
When most people hear about human trafficking their initial response is that it has to be sexual, but that just isn’t the case. A vast majority of trafficking isn’t sexual, but economic. Many employers, especially those in rural communities with little connection to urban life, overwork their workers through black mail and other means. Most commonly large corporations will hire immigrants, steal their papers, and threaten them with deportation if they don’t do exactly what they say. The managers and or bosses who are in exploiting the victims will allow little contact with anyone not involved with the scheme. In most circumstances, when someone working in the government visits the workplace, the criminal will speak to the official instead of the victim. They claim to be translating for them when in reality they are saying what they want to hear. This may seem like it’s from a movie and would never work in real life, but research shows that 87% of victims spoke to health care providers and they had no idea they were speaking to a victim. This just goes to show how difficult it is for trafficking to be discovered. For most people, even trained professionals, this falls right under their radars.
All around the world their millions of people are being trafficked, 25 million to be exact. Polaris is a non-funded organization which dedicates their time to fight against human trafficking. In recent years the number of cases being reported is decreasing, but not because trafficking is becoming less common. Starting around 2018 there have been a gradual decrease in the numbers of human trafficking cases. That year there were roughly 8,000 sexual cases and 1,200 labor cases. If there are 25 million victims worldwide and 70% of the are U.S. citizens, then how are there so few U.S. cases?
At the seminar, Kristen Leanderson Abrams stated that there is a decreasing number of cases being reported due to the decreasing attention towards the topic. Many people believe that there is no longer a trafficking epidemic, so they stopped paying attention to the issue. Whenever there is a slight drop in the number of cases, the government would cut back on resources the investigators would need to do their job. This would then lead to more decreases due to the fact that the agencies are no longer as equipped as they were before. What is happening is a vicious cycle of ignorance. Eventually after a certain point the officers’ training was also cut. Today the brave men and women who fight against human trafficking are not receiving the training they need and the equipment they need to help U.S. citizens.
Trafficking is very difficult to monitor due to the lack of funding towards the problem. The government is providing less and less resources to the agencies tasked to investigate trafficking. The best way to locate a trafficker is to monitor how overbearing a boss is with their employees and if the employees are allowed to speak for themselves. Due to the lack of coverage not many people know just how bad trafficking is in the United States, but it is still an epidemic sweeping the nation in the places we least expect.