By Dottie Laster of the Bernardo Kohler Center that seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking.
For today’s WatchOver Wednesday blog, we are reposting Forties Laster’s blog on Human Trafficking to help raise more awareness about the issue.
In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)- this law made it illegal to use force, fraud or coercion to compel another person into forced labor or commercial sex. It increased the criminal and civil penalties for such crimes. The TVPA also recognized and protected the victims of modern slavery also known as human trafficking. The reason for this law was the fact that many men, women and children were in plain sight yet were enslaved with tactics of psychological coercion and fraud. Many were exploited and sold by parents, friends and family members as well as organized crime groups. According to the Department of Justice this crime generates $9.5 Billion annually for traffickers.
Congress recognized that feigned love, debt bondage, and threats to loved ones were stronger bonds than chains because if a victim were to escape the coercion was still present. The law also made it very clear that anyone who recruited, received, transported, obtained or maintained a trafficked person was guilty of trafficking so this covered everyone involved in the scheme. Recently, former NFL player Lawrence Taylor pled guilty to a misdemeanor due to purchasing sex with a 16 year old from a pimp who is being charged with trafficking. The TVPA makes clear that any minor in stripping, pornography, or prostitution is a trafficked victim and all people involved are guilty of sex trafficking. It is a travesty of justice that a plea of a misdemeanor was taken. The TVPA has increased penalties for the sex trafficking of minors which reach up to life in prison is the minor is 14 or under.
To meet the huge demand for commercial sex and cheap labor traffickers use coercion such as -if you escape I will put your little sister in your place, we will kill your family or have you arrested. The TVPA made it possible for victims to receive assistance and legal protection for acts related to the trafficking. Yet many times victims are not identified and even prosecuted because of a lack of knowledge of the law.
In one case, a teen was lured from her home by a “boyfriend” who quickly turned out to be a pimp. This turned into a 2 year cycle of hell for her and her family. She was first reported missing, later she called and said she chose to leave but her mother could tell something else was wrong. Her family could not find her and for many months she reports being brutally forced to commit crimes such as robbery and prostitution. The “pimp”/trafficker continued violence, rape and battery was horrible however they did not scare her as much as his threats to her elderly bed ridden grandparent. When her beloved grandparent finally passed, she escaped. As promised, the pimp made an anonymous call and had her arrested for crimes he forced her to commit. He probably even received a reward for his efforts. She was prosecuted and he was never investigated. Thanks to an amazing victim who survived and was truthful, a persistent mother, good defense team, the TVPA and a very knowledgeable judge the victim is receiving help and will not receive the 20 years in jail she was facing. However the trafficker is still free.
Human Trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world today- It is modern slavery and is occurs in every country in the world and every state in the United States. The demand for commercial sex and cheap labor is unable to be met- so the supply must be forced and coerced. If you have a loved one missing, especially a minor, human trafficking must be considered as soon as possible. This crime is extremely lucrative and prevalent.
Some of early indicators of trafficking are:
- ANY MINOR IN COMMERCIAL SEX ( anything of value exchanged for stripping, pornography, or prostitution)- no movement is required for trafficking- some are exploited by parents-
- Anytime someone is missing and has been in commercial sex
- It first appears that the victim is off with a “boyfriend” or new friend
- Quickly isolated or distrustful friends and family
- Off to a new job- modeling or performing-exciting and too good to be true
- The victims may suddenly become distant and isolated- stop calling and emailing
- be sick/injured often yet not seeking care
- new or increased drug use
- victim starts prostituting/working in commercial sex
- accumulates arrests
- Lack of or loss of Identification
- Controlled travel such as having a “driver”
- Constant cell phone /computer use
- some vanish without a trace
Victims of trafficking cannot save themselves, they need their loved ones, law enforcement, churches and individuals to make a and the community to make a safe place for victims and a hostile environment for traffickers.
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