A speaker at a meeting I attended educated our group on the topic of human trafficking and its prevalence in the US. She is a member of the FBI Civil Rights Unit. I will keep her name out of this post to protect her identity. Her department deals with Federal Civil Rights. There are currently 56 FBI Field offices in the US, divided into 2 separate squads.
Her squad deals with domestic trafficking, labor (adults and juveniles), and international drug and sex trafficking (adults and juveniles) A separate squad dedicates themselves to child pornography and domestic trafficking of juvenile victims. There is so much trafficking of juveniles that it takes an entire squad to handle that alone.
Of all human trafficking, sex trafficking is 70%, labor – 14%, domestic servitude – 4 %, and Uncategorized – 12%.
Why is human trafficking so widespread?
In the black market, you have drugs, which is the #1 moneymaker, human trafficking is #2 and then weapons. Weapons used to be #2 but they can only be sold once as opposed to trafficking humans, who can be sold multiple times.
Be wary of local massage parlors
Massage parlors are in every major business district and even in small communities. They often charge about $30-40 dollars per massage which is much less than a legitimate spa that may charge over $100. Some offer “additional services,” which, of course, includes sex.
Next time you want a Chinese foot massage, Google their phone number (all numbers – no spaces) If RubMaps appears in the search listing, it’s a guarantee the workers are performing “services.” Men rate these services online and that’s why they appear in the listings.
A phone search is also a good way to find out if your significant other or child is up to something shady. Go to “usage” in your mobile phone account and copy the phone numbers that appear in text messages for that particular phone. Paste the number into Google and see what comes up.
In establishments that aren’t on the up and up, the house takes the massage fee and the “therapist” gets paid for “services.”
Did you know this about the Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl is the largest human trafficking event in the United States. Thousands of fans come into the city, and this increases the amount of human trafficking. In 2012 alone, over 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl. Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. 9.5 billion is generated in the US alone.
Out of all human trafficking cases in the US, 83% of victims are American-born citizens. The highest rates occur in California, Nevada, Texas, and New York.
Children and teens are at the biggest risk. An estimated 300,000 American children are victims of human trafficking each year. 800,000 victims are trafficked per year through International borders. 50% are children and 80% are women and girls. The average age of a sex-trafficked victim is 12-14 years old. The number of “slaves” involved in human trafficking far outweighs the number that was bought and sold when Transatlantic slavery was taking place pre-Civil War.
Definition of human trafficking
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
To prosecute someone accused of human trafficking you must have one or all of those elements to make a case.
How human traffickers lure their victims
Traffickers will create a false sense of love or family for their victim. They become the father or boyfriend they never had. Physical abuse may be followed by affection, promises of a home, security, etc. The victim complies because she doesn’t want to get beaten and desires the nice things that are offered.
The trafficker often controls access to the money and never pays the victim for services. This happens often with labor trafficking. They offer to pay but never come through. Bondage is when a victim has to pay off a never-ending debt. All the money they ‘earn” goes to pay the “loan.” An example is when a trafficker offers a plane ticket to a victim, so they can come to work in a factory. The victim then owes the trafficker for the ticket. Food, rent, and transportation get added to the “debt” and soon it’s impossible to pay off.
Mental and physical abuse breaks down victims
Victims incur physical harm, psychological harm, financial harm, and reputational harm. Sex traffickers will often take incriminating videos and threaten to send them home to the victim’s family.
The average age of a trafficked prostitute is 13. Their life expectancy after that is only about 7 years due to violence or health issues. A common scenario is that they are recruited by a friend in high school to make some money. The victim may have been molested or raped earlier in her life making her vulnerable.
She figures having sex for money is not that bad because she’s getting something out of it. She gets introduced to a pimp who acts as if he cares for her. He gives her cute clothes, she gets her hair and nails done occasionally, he takes her on trips, tells her he loves her, and promises to buy her a dream house or a car. That gives him an excuse to hold on to the money she makes. Even though he may have other “girls” he makes his victim believe she’s special.
Some high-school girls still live at home but sneak out at night to sell themselves. They make a ton of money and almost always drop out of school.
A girl being lured into the sex trade may come from middle class or affluent family and is educated. Pimps have become super smart and are now recruiting girls who are in nice colleges. Even if you think you’ve raised your daughter well, she may still be a target because the idea of making big money is enticing. Most victims have past criminal activity, have been abused in some way, or have other emotional issues.
How law enforcement tries to help
Agencies have started to do round-ups of girls and young women in the sex-trade to book them, but, more importantly, to keep track of them. That way they can map where they were last seen. If they suddenly disappear, it gives the police or the FBI a better chance of finding them. After booking a young prostitute, government organizations will often give her a blanket, food and offer her a chance to get out of the life. Unfortunately, many of them refuse.
International human trafficking
Victims are usually recruited from developing countries. They want to support their families financially by working in the US. Their traffickers are often the same nationality and speak their language. Victims are more apt to trust them over law enforcement officials because they don’t trust the police in their home countries. They may not also realize they are victims.
It’s much harder to control and locate an international victim because they don’t come forward. As horrible as their conditions may be, they were worse off in their home country. Traffickers may confiscate their legal documents and threaten them with harm, deportation, or arrest. They also isolate their victims making them dependent on them. When law enforcement confronts them, they don’t know what town or street they were taken to. Sometimes, they don’t even know their trafficker’s real name.
Exploiting labor workers
Smugglers are given a contract to take a victim over the border and the contract ends at the border. At that point, victims are easily exploited by human traffickers. There are two types of labor trafficking.
- Forced labor – Factories and sweatshops, which still exist.
- Domestic Services – Maids, and home workers.
Our FBI speaker told us about a personal experience she had. Three Indonesian women were brought over to work for a wealthy Korean family in Los Angeles. They didn’t speak Korean or English. One woman, who eventually escaped, told the FBI that her contract was for $200 per month and she was to take care of her employer’s elderly father. After arrival, she was told to take care of the entire family. During a period of 7 years, she was only paid four times and the money was sent to her family at home.
Each of the three women had some sort of disability. The woman who escaped was older, one had a short crippled arm, and the other had a vision problem and was mentally challenged. They worked an average of 15 hours a day cleaning a house in affluent Hancock Park, the father’s home also in Hancock Park, and another large home in Beverly Hills. They did all the housework, laundry, cooking, cleaned the pool, and even did some gardening.
Each woman had to pay for her own necessities. (food, deodorant, toothbrush, etc.) This was deducted from their ‘salary.” They weren’t allowed to eat with the family and were forced to eat outside. Most of their meals were boiled cabbage. Their passports were confiscated and none of them were able to drive. At night, they slept on a bare mattress in a loft with no pillows or bedding.
When the FBI obtained a search warrant to enter the house, the couple asked them for extra time to get to the door because they were in their sixties. After they entered, they began to search for the women and finally found them frightened and hiding outside of the window in the loft.
FBI agents offered them doughnuts and the women ate them crouched on the floor because they were afraid to sit at the table.
The couple was convicted but afterward, the husband, who was a Korean citizen, went back to Korea, leaving his US-born wife holding the bag. The good thing is, the victim’s wages were averaged out over the seven years they worked for the couple, which amounted to several hundred thousand dollars, which they were paid.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked
Most victims who interact with the FBI come to trust them and form long-standing relationships. The agency gives them support and checks up on them when they need it.
FBI investigations are for the long-term and they take a long period of time to complete. If you know of someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, call your local law enforcement agency for faster results. Educate young girls about the dangers of becoming exploited, especially online. You may save a life.
1 (888) 373-7888
National Human Trafficking Hotline