January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Sex trafficking is one of the worst things that happens in our world today. And, I’m going to be honest, it’s very difficult to write about. But it’s so important that we are aware of what’s happening in our world so that we can prevent it and protect each other and our children.
What is sex trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act – which was passed in 2000 in the U.S. and officially made trafficking illegal – defines sex trafficking as:
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the 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.22 U.S.C. § 7102
So basically what this means is victims of sex trafficking are those who are forced to have sex (or any kind of sexual act) in exchange for money or something of value. The ‘something of value’ can be food, shelter, or other necessities. If the victim is under the age of 18, there does not need to be force, fraud or coercion for it to be considered sex trafficking.
The definition here clarifies something that’s very important: there is no such thing as a ‘child prostitute.’ Children who are used for sexual acts are victims 100% of the time. It doesn’t matter how they ended up there, children should never be used by adults for sex.
How prevalent is human trafficking?
Trafficking can feel like it’s not that common – especially if you don’t know of anyone who has been trafficked or you don’t see evidence of it in your day to day life. But human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, affecting nearly 25 million people across the globe. Approximately 4.8 million of those people are involved in sex trafficking. Of course, there isn’t a reliable way we can know the true number of victims.
It can be easy to assume that sex trafficking happens to other people in other countries. However, it is a huge problem right here in the United States – to U.S. citizens. According to a study of the U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking task force cases, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims in the United States were U.S. citizens.
What’s worse is that more than 1 in 5 trafficking victims are children.
Source: International Labour Office. (2017). Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage. Geneva: International Labour Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf
What are signs of a trafficking victim?
The Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking created these fantastic graphics to help us raise awareness of common trafficking indicators:
What can I do to help fight sex trafficking?
Stop watching pornography
Pornography and the sex trafficking industry are undeniably linked. For example, if a child (anyone under the age of 18) is being used in pornographic material, this is defined as sex trafficking. And one of the most common searches related to porn include the terms ‘youth’ or ‘teen.’ If you are watching pornography that involves a person under the age of 18, you are watching a victim of sex trafficking and thereby contributing to the demand for sex trafficking.
Even if you’re watching porn with only adults involved, there is no way to know if that person has been coerced (and therefore is a victim of sex trafficking). In one survey of underage sex trafficking victims, 63% said they were advertised or sold online (source).
Additionally, sex traffickers often use pornography to groom and desensitize their victims.
To read more about this, read: Porn and Human Trafficking and Is the Porn Industry Connected to Sex Trafficking?
Learn how porn is rewiring your brain: Covenant Eyes Your Brain on Porn