From our Founder and President, Kristin Keen (Updated 01-11-18)
I am sitting across from fellow business owners at an entrepreneurship convention and am telling them about our work. I say, “I work with survivors of human trafficking.” The owners all shake their heads and say, “Wow, good work is being done at Rethreaded. Keep it up.”
I proceed to ask them, “What is human trafficking?” They give me a nervous look and say “I don’t actually know what it is. But I know it’s bad.”
I was thankful for my peers’ honest answer and I feel like their answers are closer to what people actually know about human trafficking. We know it’s bad, we just don’t know what it is. Some of us have seen movies like Taken or images like this:
All of these images represent a narrow perspective of human trafficking but we want to raise awareness about the realities we have found from doing this work day to day and from survivors sharing their experience. With this knowledge, we can work as a community to stop it.
Five Truths You Need to Know About Human Trafficking:
1. Human Trafficking is the exploitation of another human’s vulnerabilities for the sake of profit.
This can take the form of sex trafficking, and these are the survivors Rethreaded works with. According to the US Government, sex trafficking, is an act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. People are making lots of money making people perform sexual acts under force, fraud, and coercion, in fact, it’s a 150 billion dollar a year industry.
The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary dramatically. Many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing. Some are forced to sell sex by their parents or other family members. They may be involved in a trafficking situation for a few days or weeks, or may remain in the same trafficking situation for years.
2. Human Trafficking can happen to any person at any age.
Most people have in their head that anyone who is being trafficked is a child. Yes, it is illegal for a child to be exploited through force, fraud or coercion, but it is also illegal to traffick anyone over the age of 18. Victims of sex trafficking can be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals. Vulnerable populations are frequently targeted by traffickers, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination. The truth is that trafficking can happen to anyone who is vulnerable. At Rethreaded, our employees range in age from nineteen to fifty-four, and we have employed men and women survivors.
3. Human Trafficking does not mean that a person is being moved around.
Trafficking is defined as the deal or trade in something illegal. This means if a person is being sold as a commodity, they are a victim of human trafficking even if they have never left the city they were born in. Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels.
4. Survivors don’t often identify themselves as victims until they are out and receiving healing.
Human trafficking breaks down a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The traffickers’ job is to make it seem like she had done something wrong, she is choosing this lifestyle and it is all her fault that all these bad things are happening. When a woman is able to leave the situation and regain what has been taken she can clearly see how she was exploited. It’s a process that we see at Rethreaded over and over again.
5. This is not just a women’s issue. This is an “us” issue and only together can we stop it.
The exploitation of people by the sex trade industry is driven by demand to buy sex. Traffickers exploit people so they can make a profit. 99% of the buyers in this study were men. We believe that a man’s journey into buying sex is just as broken as a women’s journey is in selling sex. We need men who will stand up and be a voice to other men about what is really going on. We need each other to make sure that we can stop the exploitation of people.
At Rethreaded we want to provide hope to other survivors, to our community and our world. It takes us all.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
Statistics and facts about sex trafficking were found through Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery.
This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series.