Ending Human Trafficking: It happens in America?

When you think about victims of modern day slavery, what do you picture? Does your brain immediately go to images of foreign born girls in a brothel? Perhaps you think about the children in Cambodia being sold by their parents? Or maybe you see images of women and young girls with the red hues in Amsterdam. Perhaps you call up images of girls from orphanages in Romania, or Russia?

How many of the victims do you see with the American flag proudly waving in the background?

While it’s hard to determine exactly how many of the 20 million plus victims of human trafficking are in America, and identify as American citizens, it’s still important to recognize that it is happening in the “land of the free”.

According to 2014 statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, run by Polaris, the top three states with the highest amount of trafficking are; California, Texas and Florida. As we read different stats of cases of human trafficking, it’s important we remember that not all victims are safe enough or able to call for help.

I suspect that as we continue to put more emphasis on bringing about awareness and demanding an end to human trafficking we’ll see these numbers increase before they decrease.

You could look at the rates and statistics we have on human trafficking like an ice berg. Really, the statistics are just the tip above the surface.

One of the biggest barriers to recognizing that trafficking happens in America is how we have been able to distance ourselves from victims of human trafficking.

Again, when we think about victims of sex trafficking we tend not to think about our child’s friend in choir, or our neighbor’s wife, or the woman struggling on the side of the road or even the boy sitting next to you in the pew on Sunday mornings. When we think about something so tragic, so awful, so unimaginable, our brains create safe guards to make us feel safer.

It’s not us… it’s them…

Sex trafficking looks different in America than it may in other countries. While we don’t have entire streets dedicated to brothels, we do have lines of strip clubs (which we’ll be addressing in a later post), internet sites and social media accounts advertising for “escort” services, and women on the streets. Children in America are sold by their own parents to other Americans, for money or even for “love”.

Yet, the stories of trafficking, the experiences of those who’ve been trafficked are all the same. Pain, violation, despair, sadness, confusion, isolation, are all common words and themes many victims express feeling regardless of country of origin.

The reality is, human trafficking is so much closer to our homes – in fact for some it is literally in their homes, than people are willing to accept. To truly tackle this issue, our eyes must open to see victims in our own backyard. American women, men, and children are sold/bought in our schools, parks, stores, places of worship, and any other place humans hang out in.

Women, men and children are sold/bought by American citizens. In fact, even when we look at the global rates of sex trafficking, American citizens make up a large amount of the buyers in the “sex” tourism that happens in those countries.

By choosing to ignore the existence of trafficking in America, as Americans, we continue to look past the girl on the corner, or in the magazine, or in the ad, or standing across from us pleading for help.

This is America’s problem just as much as any other countries problem.

Check out these documentaries that dive deeper into how sex trafficking looks here in the United States;

To see how your state ranks in their response to incidents of human trafficking check out  Shared Hope International’s most recent report card!

Until next time!






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