Human trafficking is predatory exploitation

By Malinda Williams, executive director of Community Against Violence (CAV)
Posted 5/16/19

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "human trafficking" is the second largest criminal industry in the world (just behind drug trafficking) and continues to be the fastest …

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Human trafficking is predatory exploitation

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "human trafficking" is the second largest criminal industry in the world (just behind drug trafficking) and continues to be the fastest growing. More than 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, roughly half of whom are children.

Human trafficking also happens locally in every community: children sold for sex; men and women forced to provide labor in homes, restaurants, farms, factories and construction sites; and women, men and children forced into the sex industry. In North Dakota, for example, the booming oil fields have led to an influx of hundreds of trafficked sex workers. According to the U.S. Department of State, 17,500 people are brought into the United States every year for forced labor and sex work.

Human trafficking is people profiting from controlling and exploiting others - children, teens and adults. Thousands of people are trafficked without even crossing borders, some in their own communities and by people they thought they could trust. Community Against Violence has helped victims who were trafficked, right here in our communities in Taos County. It can also happen on a small scale: selling one child for sex, or one person forcing another to provide labor without pay.

Women, men, girls and boys can be victims. Women and girls are more frequently the victims of sex trafficking; men and boys are more often trafficked for labor. But, of course, males are also trafficked for sex and females for domestic and other labor. Victims come from all backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, religions and nationalities. What all these victims have in common is vulnerability. Young women moving alone to a new place hoping for a fresh start; men hoping for an opportunity to support their families back home. Youth who are runaways and homeless, and people who are undocumented immigrants are particularly targeted. The false promise of a better life--a job or a relationship--may lead into forced sex work or labor. Sometimes young people are used to befriend other youth and falsely recruit them into a horrendous life.

Victims are manipulated, beaten, raped, confined, isolated and often forced into drug use. Perpetrators steal any wages, charge for room and board and make the victims afraid of police and service providers by threatening to report victims to law enforcement or immigration officials. Perpetrators also threaten to harm victims' families or expose the victim as a sex worker or addict. Assisting victims of trafficking is difficult because they often are identified as criminals--sex workers, addicts, undocumented immigrants--rather than survivors of a violent "secret" crime. Perpetrators control victims and manipulate them into believing they themselves are to blame for their situation.

In New Mexico, human trafficking is a felony. Recruiting or transporting for forced labor--or benefiting financially from forced labor or sex work--is illegal. Threatening to harm the victim; threatening to report victims to law enforcement or immigration; and taking possession of government documents without the person's consent are all a crime. The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides victims who are non-U.S. citizens with benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.

For tips on how to recognize potential human trafficking situations, visit state.gov/j/tip/id for more information. If you or someone you know may be a victim, call or text (505) Get-Free - (505) 438-3733 - or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for help. Or contact CAV. You may remain anonymous, and your call or text is confidential.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; reeducation BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and a community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888 or go to TaosCAV.org for more information.

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