Starting in Feb 2012, CAPM intern Michelle Sham will be reporting on the issue of human trafficking, an issue that has often been associated with foreign populations or countries. It is our hope that this blog series will help shatter myths about human trafficking, provide an alternative view of the realities of this grave human injustice, and to offer information that can aid in catalyzing social action against human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the second largest biggest organized crime in the world where human beings are traded for commercial sexual exploitation or forced slavery. Human trafficking is modern day slavery.
After hearing about accounts of victims, people always ask, “Why don’t they run away or try to escape?” Or “why don’t they just call the cops?” To better answer questions like these, one has to understand how a trafficker operates his business and the circumstances that victims are put through.
Disclaimer: Some details of this post can be disturbing to some readers. Human trafficking is a horrible crime against humanity and as the writer, I feel that it is important to write it as it is. Out of respect and with all my humility, it is my obligation to spread advocacy on this topic and to not hide ugly facts just because it might seem too gruesome. As the writer, I will do my best to present the truth on this issue. Reader’s discretion is advised.
Some traffickers prostitute girls, some bring people from overseas to work as laborers and maids. Traffickers who prostitute girls are also known as pimps. Their product is a group of carefully chosen group of young, vulnerable and easily manipulated people like runaways as pointed out in the previous post. Women, girls and boys are recruited from various places like correction facilities, strip malls, on the Internet and even schools.
The average age of girls going into prostitution is 12 to 14 years of age, but traffickers start “grooming” their victims when they are even younger.
Pimping and grooming of the victims
There are instructional books that teach the art of grooming which are widely published and sold all over the Internet called “The Game”. Some groom their victims by starting romantic, platonic familial relationships with them. One such book writes:
“You’ll start to dress her, think for her, own her. If you and your victim are sexually active, slow it down. After sex, take her shopping for one item. Hair and/or nails is fine. She’ll develop a feeling of accomplishment. The shopping after a month will be replaced. The love-making turns into raw sex. She’ll start to crave the intimacy and be willing to get back into your good graces. After you have broken her spirit, she has no sense of value. Now pimp, put a price tag on the item you have manufactured.”
After the victims have been lured with false hope and certain security, the relationship will turn into a violent and controlling one. Using violence to control a victim is called “Gorilla Pimping”. A pimp who is Gorilla Pimping would either beat disobedient girls in front of other girls to serve as an example, or physically and mentally abuse the girls with threats of killing them if they would ever think of escaping. One pimp in New York sliced one of his girls in his “stable” with a penknife and stomped others with a Timberland boots using a special technique called “Timming.”
With a mix of grooming, affection and violence, victims develop trauma bonds. Trauma bonds are similar to Stockholm Syndrome where the victims become attached to their perpetrators and defend them later on, therefore making them feel the obligation to whatever their pimp wants them to do even if it is forced labor or prostitution.
An international problem in Minnesota
The Human Trafficking is also a very globalized industry. An estimated 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States, primarily by criminal organizations. Source countries for the United States are Thailand, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Traffickers usually take advantage of poorer areas and lure their victims with hopes of good employment and visas. Women are usually trafficked for slave labor in motels, salons, farms, construction sites or as domestic servants. Many are also trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Once they are brought over to the United States, their passports and travel documents are taken away; they are then confined and are forced to work. Traffickers usually control them by physical and mental abuse, and also of threats of killing them and their families if they escape.
A 2002 study* stated that trafficking of women is unreported in Minnesota because many of the women are brought into the United States by marriage. “Women are promised the American dream and an opportunity to help their families back home and then once they are married, their “husband” forces them into prostitution or servitude” These women are often threatened with violence and rarely sort help from mainstream social services out of fear or intimidation due to language and cultural barriers.
Another technique traffickers often use is debt bondage. When bringing their victims over to the United States, they often offer to pay for their transportation here first. Then after arriving, the victims work to pay off their debt. But to trap them into a cycle of debt, traffickers also charge high interest rates and expensive living expenses. Victims rarely see their salaries as the money they earn go straight to their traffickers.
Despite all this, victims usually cannot get help from people around them because of language and culture barriers. Furthermore, the traffickers also play on their fear of arrests and deportations, thus trapping them.
The reasons for human trafficking is obvious for the traffickers. They sell lives for profit. It is my hope that this series will inspire members of the community to also have a reason to stand up and fight against human trafficking. So far, the series has only covered the tip of the iceberg. There is so many more levels to this international problem than I could ever write in a few blog posts. Nevertheless, please keep on reading for more updates and information. The next blog post will be about legislation that try to combat human trafficking.
* Source: Lora Jo Foo – Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns & Responsive Human & Civil Rights Advocacy (2002)