With last month (January) being Human Trafficking awareness month, I think it’s only right that my first blog post be on the subject of Human Trafficking.
Now I know that this topic can be confronting and scary, especially if you're a parent. Please know I am only wanting to educate and spread awareness, I don't want to instil fear into you.
Human Trafficking is an extremely underreported topic, and occurs way more than we know it does! This post is going to be discussing Human Trafficking in general, discussing warning signs, long term effects, health consequences, and so much more!
As I am based in Australia, I think I'm going to do a second part addressing Human Trafficking specifically here in another month, as I feel I can dive so deep into this topic.
So please let me know if that is something you'd be interested in!
So what exactly is the definition of Human Trafficking?
Human Trafficking can also be referred to as 'modern day slavery'.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines it as,
"Threat or use of forces, transportation, transfer, harbouring 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"
Now I know that sounds very confusing, and is one long sentence, but I'm going to break it down below!
Victims of Human Trafficking can be men, women and children of all ages, from all backgrounds and occurs in every region of the world. Sadly, it is not uncommon for the traffickers to use violence or fraudulent employment agencies with fake promises of job prospects to coerce their victims.
The crime itself is made up of three elements: the act, the means, and the purpose.
So, essentially the purpose is for exploitation, using one of the following methods:
- Threat or use of force
- Abuse of a position of vulnerability
- Giving payments or benefits
Before the trafficker can use one of those, they must do one of the following:
A trafficker is known to use physical and sexual abuse, blackmail, emotional manipulation, and the removal of official documents (such as passports) to control their victims.
A lot of people think that for someone to be trafficked, they must be taken to a foreign country, but that isn't necessarily the case. Exploitation can occur in the victim's home country, in another country, or during migration.
Forms of Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking can take various forms, which include:
- Exploitation for sexual purposes (most common, also known as sex trafficking)
- Debt bondage
- Child soldiers
- As domestic workers
- Forced marriages
Victims are often forced to work in factories, on construction sites, or in an agricultural sector without pay entirely or at least an extremely below average salary.
Victims without a doubt live in fear of experiencing violence from their traffickers, and can often be housed in inhumane conditions.
It can be quite difficult to gain completely accurate statistics on Human Trafficking, as sadly not all cases are reported; however, I managed to find some stats from the 'International Labour Organisation' which are globally estimated.
49.6 million individuals were trafficked in 2021; 27.6 million of these were in forced labour, and 22 million were in forced marriages
Within those in forced labour, children make up 12%
Asia and the Pacific region have the highest number of people who are victims of forced labour - making up 15.1 million out of the 27.6mil
Again, within those in forced labour, 6.3 million are in forced commercial sexual exploitation
Out of those 6.3 million, women and young girls make up 4.9 million
I just find these statistics absolutely mind-blowing and although we know it's happening, I don't think we realise exactly how much!
Who are the traffickers & who are vulnerable
Although anyone, in any community, can be a victim of Human Trafficking, research and evidence suggests that people of colour and those part of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to fall victim to the crime than other demographic groups.
Traffickers are clever and pray on people's weaknesses to which they take full advantage. Individuals may be vulnerable to trafficking if they:
Have experienced generational trauma
Have an unstable living situation
Have experienced various forms of violence
Have run away from home, or are within the juvenile justice system
Are undocumented immigrants
Are facing poverty
Are addicted to drugs or alcohol
Sadly, there is no evidence that the traffickers themselves have any particular characteristics, meaning they can be any race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.
Even more worrying, these types of predators aren't even necessarily strangers. Of course they can be, but they can also be family members, romantic partners, or so-called friends.
It is obviously a hope that one day we can put a stop to Human Trafficking, but in order to do that, it's important that we can identify the warning signs.
There are various signs that can be common across all types of exploitation, and then there are specific signs for each type too.
Firstly, we'll take a look at the common signs for all types:
A person acting as though they have been instructed by someone else, or seemingly being forced to carry out specific activities
A person showing signs of physical or psychological abuse, such as bruises, lack of self-esteem, seeming to be anxious or showing untreated medical issues
A person who seems to have had money deducted from their salary, or bonded by debt
A person who has little to no contact with their family or loved ones
A person who has trust issues with the authorities
A person has threats made against themselves or family members
A person not in possession of their own legal documents
I feel like I could talk for hours on this topic, so I'm going to try and keep it as short, but informative as I can for the warning signs for the specific types.
Sexual exploitation can be categorised into specific signs for individuals and specific signs for locations:
To identify individuals who are potentially selling sex, we could be looking for someone who is:
Showing signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, cigarette burns, or broken bones
Showing evidence they have been forced, intimidated or coerced into providing sexual services
Showing signs they are experiencing emotional trauma as a result of the work they are doing
To identify specific and significant signs at a location we could be looking for a property where:
The letterbox or doors appear to be sealed from the inside
The individuals selling sex also sleep on the property, as brothels are not usually used as a sleeping place for the sex workers
Warning signs for Labour Exploitation:
Workers showing signs of psychological or physical abuse, such as being frightened, withdrawn or confused
Workers having restricted movement when leaving or entering the premises, such as always being accompanied by someone
Workers forced to give incorrect information or claiming to not know personal details
The employer or someone other than the worker, having the employee's legal documents, such as their passport
Workers being denied basic training and the necessary protective equipment and clothing
A group of workers that are a similar nationality/age/gender who have a representative
Warning signs for Forced Marriage:
The individual hasn't or isn't able to give their consent to marry
The individual becoming withdrawn from people and spending less time with their loved ones
The individual demonstrating signs of physical or psychological abuse
The individual seeming to be scared of their partner or another member of the family
Long term effects
Obviously the long term effects for a Human Trafficking victim and survivor can vary from person to person, and also depending on the type of trafficking experienced.
Sex trafficking can often result in its victims and survivors being exposed to various sexual transmitted diseases and substance abuse.
A huge, and common, long term effect for trafficked survivors can be mental health issues, which can look like anxiety, insecurity, fear, and trauma. Many will also experience PTSD, which then shows up in most parts of their life, whether it be social situations, school, work and family life. Sadly, being a victim of trafficking can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression, and sometimes suicide.
Being a victim and survivor of Human Trafficking is of course going to have detrimental effects regardless of age; however, this crime makes minors even more susceptible to longer lasting issues. A growing child can have their emotional, physical and psychological development deeply damaged.
As I mentioned before, these survivors can have their long-lasting effects show up in other areas of their lives, and within certain relationships. Many will become withdrawn from loved ones, and subsequently ostracised.
These long term effects don't have to last forever; talking with the right people and taking the time to get the help they need, these survivors can eventually get back to living a normal life. A large portion of these survivors often become involved with campaigns and work to put an end to Human Trafficking.
An incredible survival story of Sophie Hayes
On my 'Recommendations' page, my number one book recommendation is 'Trafficked' by Sophie Hayes.
Sophie is a survivor of Human Trafficking, and this is her story of everything she went through, how she kept herself alive, and how she escaped her trafficker.
This book can be quite confronting to read, but it is also extremely powerful and moving. To read Sophie's story, in her own words, is really something.
The blurb of 'Trafficked' reads,
When Sophie Hayes was 24, she went to Italy to visit the man who had become her best friend. They spend an idyllic weekend together and Sophie began to realise that she had found a man she might be able to love and trust. But as she got ready to fly back to England, everything changed. Kas became violent as he told her of his intention to force her into prostitution - and Sophie's world collapsed. She wasn't going anywhere. Relentless, gripping and utterly terrifying, Trafficked is the story of how a British girl was forced into the dark and dangerous world of the sex trade - and how she survived.
We can read as much research as we like, watch as many documentaries as we want, but there is just something different about reading something so horrifying in someone's own words.
I couldn't recommend this book more, it is truly an eye-opener, and creates an opportunity for us all to have a difficult conversation with our loved ones about this possibility.
One of the main standouts from Trafficked for me, was the conversation and code word that Sophie and her mum have if she was ever in trouble and couldn't talk. You can read all about this on the 'Sophie Hayes Foundation' website linked below, but in-short; Sophie and her mum have always had a code word, or phrase rather, of "How is Aunt Linda?" that Sophie could say to her mum if she was ever in danger and couldn't exactly talk.
Just like us all, Sophie and her mum never actually thought she'd have to use this phrase, but it quite literally saved her life.
I strongly encourage you to open up this conversation with your loved ones, and come up with some sort of phrase, code word or question just like this. It can be quite a confronting conversation to have, and while we never think we'd need to use it, it's better to have it than not.
STOP THE TRAFFIK
STOP THE TRAFFIK is a registered non-profit organisation founded in 2005 to bring an end to human trafficking. The organisation are known to create campaigns to prevent Human Trafficking before it even happens, through the use of social media. They use the digital platforms to spread information and disrupt the particular app/website that traffickers use to target their victims.
This organisation have also created an app called the 'Stop App', which is an app anybody with a smart phone can download onto their device anywhere in the world. The app is anonymous and available in 15 languages. Essentially the app can be used to anonymously submit suspicious activity using a text based message, and you can also upload photos and videos if needed.
You can read more about what STOP THE TRAFFIK do and the Stop App on their website, which I have linked below.
Thank you so much for reading my first blog!
Any feedback is always welcome 😊
I hope you found this informative and it taught you something you didn't necessarily know about Human Trafficking.
My Instagram DMs are always open if you want to discuss anything or ask any questions!