Human trafficking has developed into the 2nd largest criminal enterprise in the world, with an estimated 27 million people currently enslaved worldwide. That means human trafficking has surpassed the illegal arms trade in terms of global black-market trade. Human trafficking victims include men, women and children in labor servitude, private ownership and in sexual services. The majority – approximately 80% – of these victims are women and children who have been bought, sold and imprisoned in the underground sexual service industry. This industry targets and exploits under-represented classes of people and markets their bodies to the desires of a growing demand class.
The average age of human trafficking victims is 12-17 years old, and their average “shelf life” is only 3-7 years … so by 17-21 years of age, these women and youth are either found dead from attack, abuse, HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, overdose, or from taking their own lives. This very brief, 3-7 year timespan in which to act and rescue, is consistent with all reporting sources worldwide. It is a narrow sliver of opportunity in which to identify, rescue and rehabilitate a victim; but it is not impossible. When people are informed, trained and guided on warning signals of trafficking, it makes the traffickers’ conquests all the more difficult.
Here lies the importance of the peoples’ response to this injustice – the victims need your attention; they need your support; and most importantly, they need your informed action! There is no way we can effectively summarize this problem on one Internet web page. For the purpose of this informational summary, we will attempt to highlight certain avenues that Traffickers are using so that you will know what signs to look for, and so that you will be able to discern whether or not a situation you become aware of is or is not a Humuan Trafficking scenario.
Please, do more than just donate! DO donate … but please, do MORE. It is The Defender Foundation’s mission to help guide you in your understanding of this catastrophic global issue by providing you with educational materials and resources, and by offering you the opportunity to join us and give the victims more than just your dollars, now you can give them your time and action as well.
How Are Trafficking Victims Obtained In The First Place?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is so broad in scope that it is hard to cover all of the possibilities.
- Sometimes it is an Uncle or some other family member having the right criminal ties and selling their family member to traffickers.
- Here in the U.S. we have seen many instances where drug addicted parents have sold their children for drugs and/or money to support their drug habit.
- There was a case in a Florida high school where a team of traffickers had a female member that looked young for her age, so they inserted her as a student in the high school, with the mission to find/befriend a pretty but socially outcast girl as a victim. This young looking trafficker succeeded in befriending a potential victim and invited her to a fake sleepover. But by the grace of God, the victim was rescued before the traffickers could sell her in Mexico.
- There was another case where a girl was intercepted as she made her way to boarding school. A group of young people invited her to delay going to boarding school and go with them to a beachside party in Miami instead. This girl did what a lot of teenage girls did and accepted the plane ticket to Miami. After the party, her Trafficker put her to work. She was forced into prostitution for her trafficker and was even sold to another trafficker and moved to New York before she was rescued six months later.
- Another case involved a young female minor who’s mother and boyfriend would charge people for cash and drugs to use her. In desperation, she reached out online to a so called “pastor” who said that he helped abuse victims. He arranged for her to be transported to where he lived out-of-state. Then he coerced her mother into signing guardianship over to him. (Shouldn’t have been too hard to do, considering the legal consequeces he could threaten against her mother for what she had done to her daughter.) Then began this girl’s new nightmare … as he forced her to pose for gothic porn; strip at two local clubs; and engage in a sexual relationship with him. At 18, she finally reached out to Julie Shematz from Beauty from Ashes, and Dottie Laster of Laster Global Consulting. This was actually the first rescue that The Defender Foundation was involved in.
These cases, of course, were US minors. Overseas victims are obtained in many ways. The various mafias and organized crime syndicates are all highly involved in Human Trafficking overseas. The latest intelligence reports indicate that Russian Organized Crime controlls a minimum of 70% of the banking systems in Eastern Europe and Russia. Trafficking victims are obtained for both Labor and Sex Trafficking. Fake employment agencies with actual storefronts, flashy video presentations, brochures, the works, will present employment opportunities abroad and education opportunities for your children. With the worldwide economic crisis making some families choose who eats or who leaves, these “educational” opportunities abroad seem like a godsend. These different methods of obtaining victims will meet the same results. At some point in their journey, the victims will be drugged, beaten, broken in and sold. They come in by air and by boat. The Defender Foundation investigates both Labor and Sex Trafficking cases. We have sources that tell us how girls come in by cargo container in our southern ports. They are drugged for the journey and placed on wooden racks inside. Then resold to organized crime syndicates and Biker Motorcycle clubs for transport and further sales.
We often hear people say that it “couldn’t happen here” and “the numbers surely must be inflated.” Unfortunately, if anything, the numbers are very conservative. Human and sex trafficking is happening here, in our US cities and neighborhoods, and it is spreading at a frightening rate. U.S. Law Enforcement knows that runaways, misfits, outcasts and foster care system runaways are at huge risk here domestically. Now, they are starting to suspect that many of these are sold through Human Trafficking clearinghouses in Mexico for shipment abroad. We don’t see this evil enterprise because it is so good at staying hidden. It is fluid. They prey on marginalized members of society. Kids are nabbed by traffickers, and whisked out of state – often out of the country – and never seen nor heard from again. They are assumed to be run aways. They are assumed to want to be unfound, and so they remain unfound. It’s easy for traffickers to elude capture when no one is looking for them because no one is even sure a crime has been committed.
It is time to wake up and do something about this plague. Hotel workers need to be educated on what to look for - both for sex and labor trafficking – since in many cases the signs are similar. Human smuggling is different that sex trafficking, because it always involves a violation of a nation’s sovereignty, and because the participants are willing. However, many times what starts out as willing participation, ends up as that person becoming an unwilling trafficking victim, once they reach their destination and find themselves in massive engineered debt, designed to hold them captive; they are told they are not free to go until they work off their debt, or sometimes they will just be sold outright.
Signs of Human Trafficking Include:
- Panel-type trucks backed into their parking spots to obscure tags.
- Young girls or workers who are escorted absolutely everywhere they go.
- Victims will not make eye contact usually and if so, only very briefly.
- You may also notice young girls who are dressed inappropriately or provocatively. While this is noticed in social and fashion trends lately, the submissive nature of the girls will be an immediate indicator.
- Traffickers will also hold all ID and will speak for the victim if they are spoken to by someone else.
We know there are rolling brothels where 4-8 victims will be transported in secrecy and set up in a hotel, trailer or house for a day or two, then move on. Some of what you thought was drug trafficking in your neighborhood, may be sex trafficking instead.
- Things to look for are Johns (people who use prostitutes or trafficking victims) lined up.
- Girls transported in or out in the middle of the night
- Locks on the outside of windows or plywood windows on a bedroom.
The Johns are typically notified of when the rolling brothel will be in the area; and they may also have cards that are from everything from fake restaurants to fake beauty salons to call when girls will be available.
We are finding the average age reported in our area of operations is around 15-16. We know it is younger overseas but we think many of these are purchased first before they get this far.
If you are a service provider that enters people’s homes, such as public and private utilities, paramedics, etc. there are other sign to look for inside.
- Waiting areas set up with chairs.
- In the bedrooms there will be only a few things in the closet. Most everything a trafficking victim has can fit in a small backpack usually, at least for the mobile ones.
- Other things will be tokens at bedside. Trafficking victims are not allowed to keep money. So the Johns purchase a token and gives this to the girls (or young boys). This is how the victim keeps track of their customers. They can also have tote sheets and other tokens include items such as marbles, poker chips, etc.
- You will also notice that many times the bed is just a mattress on the floor and you will notice locks or reinforced locks on the outside of the bedroom doors.
- You will also notice a lot of fast food remnants.
Medical care providers, you should know that it is estimated that around 25% of trafficking victims are brought for care in our medical system. Most sex trafficking victims have about a 3-5 year shelf life until they are dead from abuse, untreated illness or suicide. Signs to look for include some of those mentioned before, such as the trafficker speaking for the victim, the victim not making eye contact. Refer to the Victim Help page for questions to ask a suspected trafficking victim. Also, look for brandings and tattoos of men’s names on the neck or shoulders. Tattoo Artist, you can look for these signs as well and become a major stop to this. Usually though they will use a trusted tattoo artist. One of things you have to remember is that these are not prostitutes. Prostitution implies some sort of willingness and participation in the decision.
Now, we understand that life is sometimes hard and leads to some to decide this is what they have to do, and we are not talking about that. Also, saying that a girl is free as soon as she pays off some large unrealistic debt is just ludicrous. The deck is stacked against her ever paying the debt off through further debt and company store strategy . Grow up, she is not free to go, the debt is a tool and it is used to manipulate the victim into thinking if they just work hard enough, they will get out of this. We also know that strings of 4-8 girls will tour through strip clubs in the state. They will have a handler who they give their money to. They will not speak to other girls and if a customer ask them about their accent, they will usually deny even having one. Most of the actual managers of the clubs do not realize these girls may be trafficking victims and generally look upon their role as a protector of the girls in their clubs. Many also do not know that the actual owners are Organized crime or gang or motorcycle club affiliated. This ignorance is useful in maintaining a legitimate facade for the business.