Written by: Sanjevni Prasad
Beginning the event with a breathing exercise all of the Social Justice Officers guided an estimated 30 students and staff members through the reality of human trafficking. SJO members passed out an activity sheet that asked the audience to guess the statistics of Human Trafficking around the world. Nomungerel shared the real time numbers of individuals exploited through sex trafficking.
“A vast majority of human trafficking goes undetected as of 2010”, says Nomungerel. The federal crime occurs in our own backyard, “King county human trafficking study from 2008 some victims are as young as 11”.
For 2019 the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded 23,784 reports to their hotline: based on the demographic information reporters shared 3,736 Females, 545 Male, and 36 Gender Minorities. A majority of women and girls are exploited through this federal crime. After hearing the statistics Nomungerel asked the participants to express their thoughts and feelings.
Students shared that they found the information was shocking and difficult to digest.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline defined the federal crime, “[h]uman trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.”
Gurleen, also an SJO member, shared the different categories of human trafficking. The Human Rights Commission by the city and county of San Francisco stated “the 3 most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. Forced labor, also known as involuntary servitude, is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world, according to the U.S. Department of State. Debt bondage is another form of human trafficking in which an individual is forced to work in order to pay a debt.” Gurleen informed the audience of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how sex trafficking violates many human rights.
The guest speaker was Tanya Fernandez the Education Director from Seattle Against Slavery shared that the exaggeration of statistics for human trafficking is another aspect of the problem. Fernandez shared that it is not in malicious intent, estimations come from individuals from programs to help survivors and survivors themselves.
King County human trafficking informational page clarified that “victims are controlled physically, emotionally and financially. Escape is difficult because victims of human trafficking are often invisible. Some don’t speak English. They are afraid to approach authorities because they fear threats of harm against their families or deportation if they are not US citizens. They may have no idea where they are or how to get help. They are ashamed.”
Polaris is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking detailed the 2018 demographic statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In the U.S, the top five reported race/ ethnicities are Latino 2,348, Asian 1,809 African, AfricanAmerican, Black 1,072 White 989 Multi-ethnic, Multi-racial 184.
Nomungerel shared that the number one human trafficking method is sexual realtionship proposition where traffickers “fall in love” with victims and force them into the illegal trade.
Students explored this method further and worked through why a trafficker would choose deception over force. Fernandez shared that there are a lot of people that are willing and desperate enough to fall for deception, propositions of money, and are less likely to speak up and leave their attackers. Fernandez debunked the doggie bags on your windshield, zip ties, or tape on your rear wiper blade as fictional tactics that are often promoted on social media as scare tactics. She shared that, in reality, victims are manipulated through moments of affection and an occasional showering of gifts from a trafficker or pimp so victims refuse to share details about their pimps because no one has showered them with gifts, give them money, or are kind to them.
A few students brought up the legalization of prostitution as a solution to human trafficking. However, Fernandez noted the partial decrim Sweden put into place as an example for the US to look at. In a Sex Trafficking and Prostitution overview of four legal response models prepared by The Advocates for Human Rights with support from volunteer Jenna Andriano the “partial decriminalization, commonly known as the Nordic Model, identifies prostituted individuals as victims and protects them from legal penalties. Buying or facilitating the sale of sexual services remain criminalized, often with increased penalties.” Fernandez declared that in Seattle Against Slavery “we are trying to reduce the amount of trauma individuals experience when they have to exchange they body for money to pay their bills.”
Wanting to humanize and localize the problem for the group, Nomungerel and Gurleen shared three stories from human trafficking victims. The shocking commonality in all three stories was that a woman initiated the process and promised the victims of financial stability. SJO adviser Ben mentioned that there isn’t a specific identity associated with a trafficker. Nomungerel stated, “anyone can be trafficked by anyone. We should be aware of these statistics and the prevalence of this problem.”
Fernandez ended the event with further learning opportunities, a viable solution to human trafficking and tips for women to be safe, “documentaries I recommend: I am Jane Doe, The Long Night and Very Young Girls. In terms of prevention, I enjoy talking about the world we can have, something I learned is that there is a demand for sex buying and many buyers do not specifically ask for a child, they want a body that they see as an object. Children are just easy to traffic. Fighting gender stereotypes where our society tells men that sex makes them more manly and those individuals with extra income use it to purchase a body for sex.
“Sex trafficking happens for men as well and many do not come forward out of fear of being labelled as gay or do not understand that their situation was sex trafficking. We can clarify the myths of human trafficking. Promoting self defined boundaries and always asking for consent. Respecting a person’s boundaries. ‘You are not a bitch if you say no, instead I was told to be polite-don’t be rude’. Push back against the idea that women need to be polite and be nice. If you have ulterior motives, if you want something from that person for yourself, even though you are respecting boundaries-go to therapy. Set your boundaries, stick to them and trust your gut. People who really care about you will not force you to do something. If you feel something weird, trust it and get out.”
If you or someone you know is being forced into labor or sexual exploitation a number to call is 1-888-373-7888 and even if you feel that something is wrong a person will document it and a professional will check it out themselves. Volunteer opportunities create a community response that victims are welcome. In our society, victims feel that they are unwelcome. It is important to volunteer even at a food bank is important because you are supporting the most vulnerable people in our society by providing food and preventing them from experiencing human trafficking for basic resources. A world that is more equal and respects people is a world where trafficking cannot exist.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24-Hour Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network Victim Assistance Line: 206-245-0782