Today, there are an estimated 27 million slaves around the world, including within our DC Area communities. This new form of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, has become the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world. This is a problem that exists not only in faraway lands or as a blemish on our national history, but also as a reality in our suburbs, cities and communities right here in the US. Its perpetrators use powerful methods of force, fraud and coercion to exploit men, women and children through labor and sex trafficking operations. Stop Modern Slavery exists to leverage the power of the community to bring attention to this problem and take action to combat it.
If you have reason to suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888) or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
Who are the victims?
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. Victims can be:
- U.S. citizens or foreign nationals
- Any race
- Male or female
- Child or adult of any age
- Rich or poor
- Educated or uneducated
It is essential to remember that education, wealth, age, or social standing does not guarantee invulnerability to becoming a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers often prey on people who are hoping for a better life, lack employment opportunities, have an unstable home life, or have a history of sexual abuse – conditions present in all portions of society.
Both foreign national and U.S. citizen victims have been identified in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states and in Washington, DC. They are forced to work or provide commercial sex against their will in legal and legitimate business settings as well as underground markets. Some victims are hidden behind locked doors in brothels and factories. In other cases, victims are in plain view, but the widespread lack of awareness of trafficking leads to low levels of victim identification by the people who come into contact with them. For example, women and girls in sex trafficking situations, especially U.S. citizens, are often misidentified as being voluntarily in the sex industry.
Who are the traffickers?
Traffickers lure and ensnare individuals into labor and sex trafficking situations by using force, fraud, or coercion. Examples of potential traffickers include:
- Brothel owners
- People who have servants in their homes
- Small businesses
- Criminal networks
What fuels human trafficking?
Human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry that is fueled by the demand for the labor, services, and commercial sex acts of human trafficking victims. Traffickers, who are motivated primarily by the goal of making money, force victims into the labor, services, or commercial sex industry because they can generate large profits.
Who are the facilitators?
Facilitators include a wide range of individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations, internet sites and practices. What all facilitators have in common is that they enable or support the trafficking industry. Facilitators may include:
- Hotels and motels
- Transportation companies
- Banks and financial services corporations
In some cases, facilitators are aware of their involvement in human trafficking, and the profits they generate outweigh reservations they may have about their role. In other cases, facilitators are unaware and find it difficult to know when they are enabling trafficking to occur.
Potential Trafficking Indicators
The following is a list of suggested red flags that may be signs of a human trafficking situation of victim. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list. Indicators listed are intended only as potential red flags to keep in mind. In addition, each indicator taken individually may not imply a trafficking situation, but when taken with other indicators, may cumulatively paint a larger picture of human trafficking. Lastly, many of these indicators apply to victims of both transnational and local trafficking as well as both sex and labor trafficking.
Potential Indicators include individuals who:
- Have few or no personal possessions
- Travel through town frequently
- Have few or no personal financial records
- Ask about their whereabouts and/or do not know what city they are in
- Are not in control of their own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Owe a large debt and are not able to pay it off
- Have their communication restricted or controlled. They may not be allowed to speak for themselves,
- a third party may insist on translating, or they may seem watched or followed.
- Have an attorney representing them that they don’t seem to know or didn’t seem to agree to representation
- Have injuries, signs of physical abuse, and/or signs of torture
- Have signs of malnourishment
- Have been “branded” by a trafficker with the trafficker’s name
- Lack the freedom to leave working or living conditions
- Exhibit behaviors including fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension, and/or nervousness
- Are unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips in their work environment
- Are not in control of their own money
- Work excessively long and unusual hours
- Are not allowed breaks during work
- Exhibit a lack of health care for a prolonged period of time
- Are under 18 and are providing commercial sex – de facto
- Live in locations with peculiar security including barbed wire, guarded compounds, bars on outside of windows, or opaque boarded-up windows
- Claim to be “just visiting” an area but are unable to articulate where they are staying or to remember addresses
- Have numerous inconsistencies in their story
- Exhibit unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up “law enforcement”
- Are performing odd tasks at odd hours (e.g., washing a car at 10pm at night in the cold)
- Avoid eye contract
- Exhibit “hyper-vigilance” or paranoid behavior
- Have a loss of sense of time or space
Top 4 myths about Human Trafficking
False: Trafficking is forced transportation of people across borders.
True: Trafficking is modern-day slavery through labor/commercial sexual exploitation; it does not require transportation to occur.
False: Trafficking includes only foreign nationals.
True: Many trafficked persons are victims of domestic trafficking — within the borders of a single country and are themselves nationals of that country.
False: Trafficking is caused by poverty and inequality.
True: Trafficking is not primarily caused by poverty and inequality; this industry is driven by A) the potential for large profit due to high demand B) negligible-to-low risk of prosecution.
False: Trafficking cannot be stopped.
True: Trafficking CAN be stopped. Stopping it requires the collective efforts of government, NGO’s, private sector, and the community. We organize this walk because we believe massive public awareness, increased funding for NGO’s, and collaboration among different sectors of society are crucial to stopping Human Trafficking.
Related Laws and Conventions
- Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and
- Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted by the Council of Europe on 16 May 2005. The aim of the convention is to prevent and combat the trafficking in human beings. Of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, so far 36 have signed the convention and 7 have ratified it.