For the next few weeks, I am going to be trying to write two posts a week. The first will be about the need for legislation to fight human trafficking and about how the everyday person can make an impact on the world in this arena. The second post will be about a real life story of a survivor of human trafficking, taken from various sources, giving you as the reader a more in depth understanding of what is actually happening around the world. This post in particular will be about the type of person who is more likely to be trafficked.
There is no one single profile for trafficking victims as trafficking can occur in all different forms. The victims usually are diverse in their socio-economic backgrounds, their levels of education, ages, gender, and more. Even though there is no single profile for a person that is more than likely to be trafficked, there are several vulnerabilities that are often exploited by traffickers. These vulnerabilities bring people to higher risks of falling prey to the trafficking system.
The first biggest vulnerability that is often exploited is the vulnerability that comes with runaway and homelessness. A study in Chicago (http://www.impactresearch.org/documents/sistersspeakout.pdf) found that 56 percent of prostituted women were initially runaway youth. Similar numbers were found of the male population. There are several factors that make runaways and homeless youth more prone to falling into the human trafficking system. One of the biggest factors is that they lack a strong support system. They don’t have people who are providing them with advice and security, making them more prone to fall prey to a trafficker who falsely provides that support. The traffickers often approach homeless and runaways with promises of shelter, food, and security. The trafficker will come in as a strong support system for the runaway and tactfully exploit the runaway/homeless person.
Another big vulnerability that is exploited is foreign nationals. Many people coming from different countries are fleeing a form of persecution in their country or are promised a better life for themselves and their family. Recruiters for trafficking place themselves in various countries, looking for people that are trying to run or have a better life. Many women are promised to be paid well so they can send money back to their country to support their family. Recruiters will even take children from their parents, promising the parents a better life for their child in the states. As soon as the child gets to the US, they are quickly put into a human trafficking ring with little hope of ever escaping. In addition, traffickers leverage the ability to obtain visas for foreign nationals, promising acceptance into the States. Because the foreign nationals lack familiarity with their surroundings, laws and rights, language, cultural understandings, and more, they become prone to exploitation.
The last largest group of people who are more vulnerable to human trafficking are those that have experience violence and trauma in the past. This is mainly due to the psychological effect of trauma on the person, producing a long lasting trauma that is challenging to overcome. Victims of domestic violence, war, social discrimination, sexual assault, are often targets for traffickers. These traffickers see the vulnerabilities left by the prior abusers and exploit those vulnerabilities. These exploitation feeds on the belief of shame and unworthiness.
Now, having read all of this, it may make you want to go to the people you know who have experienced these vulnerabilities and warn them of the danger. In reality, the best way to help someone who has been in any of these situations is to help them get the real and professional help they need. Be a support for these people, but do not try and be their savior.