As the heading says, January is Human Trafficking month. For many of us, our thinking is that we should do whatever we can to help those less fortunate people in exotic places like Thailand, Ukraine, Slovakia, or some remote African country where people are being captured into sex slavery.
But the truth is that human trafficking, especially sex trafficking of young boys and girls happens multiple times every day in every one of these great United States... to the tune of over $32,000,000,000 (that is $32 Billion dollars every year) in the United States and $150,000,000,000 world-wide (and criminals are notorious liars when it comes to paying taxes. The USA contributes about 1/5 of the sex trafficking revenue stream.
Is it any wonder that people all over the country are clamoring for things to change? I have worked in the anti-human sex trafficking industry since 2012. Estimates then were a $9,000,000,000 dollar industry. Ten years later, and significant improvements have been made in the field, but yet the dollars have grown by over 300%.
Most of you are aware that the average age of "recruiting" into trafficking is between 11 and 13 years of age. For children captured/stolen at that age, they are typically "dumped at the side of an interstate road" by the age of 20-22. Their lives, if they survive this completely traumatic set of experiences creates a struggle and requires years of readjustment for survival.
The following is a set of prioritizations proposed by the United States Department of State 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report: United States OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. I take particular note of bullet point 9, where they propose laws prohibiting law enforcement officials from "engaging in sexual acts with victims." Is it any wonder that children of trafficking do not trust the very people who should be protecting them?
Increase efforts to comprehensively address labor trafficking in the United States, including identification of and provision of services to labor trafficking victims.
Screen all individuals in immigration detention or custody for human trafficking indicators.
Assess government systems and programs to ensure they advance equity for and decrease the vulnerability of marginalized communities to human trafficking.
Improve access to emergency and long-term housing for all victims.
Increase access to and accessibility of specialized services for all victims.
Mitigate vulnerabilities in employment-based or other nonimmigrant U.S. visa programs, including by holding accountable noncompliant employers and labor contractors, as well as their agents, and improve workers’ access to timely and comprehensive job information.
Increase the number of requests by federal law enforcement officials for Continued Presence.
Shorten processing times for trafficking-related immigration benefits and remove barriers for victims to obtain those benefits.
Encourage state, local, and tribal authorities to implement policies not to prosecute victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit and to adopt laws to prohibit law enforcement officials from engaging in sexual acts with victims.
Evaluate the effectiveness of current federal law enforcement strategies in identifying and supporting victims and adjust strategies as necessary.
Train investigators, prosecutors, and judges to increase the number of forfeiture orders and mandatory restitution orders for trafficking victims and use all available authorities to ensure restitution is paid.
Increase survivor engagement, including by establishing accessible mechanisms for receiving and providing compensation for survivor input when forming policies, programs, outreach materials, and trainings.
Strengthen efforts to address demand for all forms of human trafficking.
My greatest motivation comes from the very last bullet point - to strengthen efforts to address demand for all forms of human trafficking. If there are no "johns" there will be no trafficking, at least in time. Many of us have advocated for this for a very long time.