15 Jan Who is a Target for Human Trafficking?
The definition of human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion to exploit a position of vulnerability in another person. This looks a million different ways, but rarely how it is portrayed in movies and on television. Yes, some people are kidnapped, whisked away, and handcuffed to a bed, but the vulnerabilities exploited by traffickers are usually much more familiar—human needs we all have— like the need for love, connection, housing, money, and to protect our children.
While we are all beholden to these vulnerabilities at times, the Federal Human Trafficking Report for 2021 called out certain groups at greater risk of those universal needs being leveraged to be trafficked:
7 in 10 victims worldwide are women and 91.9% of persons charged for trafficking crimes are men.
Children & Teens
Children are particularly vulnerable. More than ½ of all victims identified in 2021 were minors. In the United States, the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 13. In southeast Asia, the average age is 9.
As an under-researched crime, data on human trafficking and its victims in the United States is geographically scattered and lacks a consistent collection approach, but it can be said with certainty that BIPOC girls are at a higher risk than white girls. According to the FBI, 53% of all juvenile prostitution arrests (intrinsically trafficking cases) are Black minors— substantially more than any other racial group and wildly disproportionate to their percentage of the population. Polaris Project highlights that, in Louisiana, “Black girls account for nearly 49 percent of child sex trafficking victims, though Black girls comprise approximately 19 percent of Louisiana’s youth population.” Similarly, in King County, Washington, 84% of minor victims are black, despite the entirety of the Black community accounting for only 7% of the population.
Immigrants Living in Poverty
For immigrant victims, it often starts with the promise of a job where they can send money home to their families. Once they arrive in the United States, documents are taken, and threats are made against victims’ families.
Runaways and Children in Foster Care
For American-born victims, runaways who need a place to stay are at risk, as are kids in foster care who would do anything for a sense of belonging. Sometimes it’s even the foster care parents who are the traffickers.
Among everyone at high-risk, fear and shame are used as weapons. It is common for traffickers to use drugs-by-force to make victims compliant. Another common strategy is to demonize law enforcement as “in on it” or “deportation-hungry.”
It is important to understand that, while some are more exposed to victimization than others, when anyone is vulnerable, everyone is vulnerable. Once a business has been created, the people making money will find enough supply to fill demand. If you’d like to learn more about protecting your children, check out this blog (LINK TO TEACHING CHILDREN BLOG) on talking to your kids about tricky people.