Would you know what sex trafficking looked like if you saw it?
LOOK IN MY EYES
by Monique, age 19
Look in my eyes.
Tell me what they say.
[Do] they tell you my future?
Or just about today?
Can you see the tears I cry?
Well what about the pain I hide?
Or is it you just don't care what's inside.
All anyone ever sees
is the fake me I have to be.
But if that's all you want to see
then you'll never know
The real me.
-Poem from mtvU’s Against Our Will Campaign in cooperation with Survivor Overcomers from GEMS
Could you see me if I needed you?
While many people believe that it is only teenage girls in big cities who are at risk of being trafficked, the reality is that everyone can be at risk. This is because vulnerability is what makes someone at-risk of exploitation, and everyone has vulnerabilities. Whether it is homelessness, substance abuse, mental health problems, a recent break up, or the loss of a loved one, any of these and more can put someone at risk of being trafficked. Men, women, boys and girls of all ages have been reported as victims of sex trafficking in the United States. Click link below to read more about how vulnerabilities can be exploited.
"No one ever came looking for us because we never went missing" - Jen Spry
While most people immediately think of abduction similar to that in the movie Taken, the reality is that there are a variety of recruitment tactics that traffickers use to trap victims of sex trafficking. Most of the time it looks much more like a trafficker pretending to be a romantic partner to build and exploit a person’s trust. It may look like a peer at a party or in school coercing a victim with blackmail. Or it may look like a job offered to someone that turns out to actually be trafficking or some form of online recruitment taking place. The fact of the matter is that they may be the child living next door with their parents. Click link below to learn more about survivor overcomer Jen Spry’s story.
Why don’t victims of sex trafficking self-report?
Because of the level of manipulation that a trafficker uses, victims of sex trafficking are rarely in a position to report their victimization. First, victims of sex trafficking often don’t identify as such. This is because of the same preconceived idea that most people share about what human trafficking looks like. Not only that, but victims of sex trafficking are groomed by their traffickers’ use of force, fraud, and coercion to keep them silent. Traffickers also manipulate victims to be fearful of authority by telling them that authorities will prosecute them for prostitution. While legally this is not the case, this fear is amplified by the fact that many in law enforcement have not received adequate training in response to human trafficking. Click link below to read about a locally prosecuted case of human trafficking.
Now can you see me?
Many people, when asked, would say that they would be able to identify a victim of sex trafficking if they came across them. However, many trafficking survivors went to school with other children during the time they were being trafficked. They went to medical professionals or were arrested on multiple occasions and were not identified as trafficking survivors. This is because of the many preconceived ideas that we’ve talked about in previous posts today and this is why our Prevention Education Program provides education for professionals working with at risk populations. Here are a few warnings signs that someone may be a victim of sex trafficking: they aren’t free to come or go as they want, fearful of authority, under the age of 18 and involved in the commercial sex industry, controlled by a pimp or manager, work excessively long hours, repeated abortions or miscarriages, tattoos or branding, highly sexual behavior, changes to their story or give unclear information. Read about Kate’s story to learn more, or find out more about our Prevention Education Program in link below.
Do you know what to do if you see sex trafficking taking place?
One of the things that people say scares them the most about human trafficking is not knowing how to respond. Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics of human trafficking and how to recognize when someone is being trafficked, it is time to learn how to respond. First off, it is important to note that you should never investigate a human trafficking situation on your own. By doing this, you may be putting your life and the lives of those you’re trying to save at risk. Instead, contact one of the following numbers. The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be contacted at (888) 373-7888 and will advise you in next steps. The New Jersey Human Trafficking State Hotline can be contacted at (877) 652-2873 and puts you specifically in contact with a police officer who has been trained in human trafficking or sexual assault and will open a case immediately and send a gender-specific officer to the scene. Trafficking exists even locally in Somerset County! Link below to read more
How do victims of sex trafficking get out?
While the rescue rate is low for victims of sex trafficking, hope is rising as awareness and education increase. It takes every member of the community getting educated on human trafficking so they are prepared to report it when they see it taking place. For the survivors who get out, how they find freedom is different in just about every case. Once they are out, however, they often come face to face with the lack of resources and assistance available for them. Through our Restorative Care Program, we have come alongside survivors, walking with them as they navigate their journey of healing. We offer support, referrals, and resources as needed. Click link in bio to learn about Love True’s Restorative Care Program.
“Hope is not what we find in evidence; its what we become in action.” -Frances Moore Lappé
Although the issue of human trafficking is widespread, we do not despair. We continue to take action and spread hope in our communities. “In what authorities dubbed "Operation Cross Country XI," 42 people were arrested in [New Jersey] on warrants and charges of sex trafficking, child exploitation and prostitution. It was the 11th year of the FBI-led international sweep.” To read the rest of the quoted news article follow the link in our bio. Let’s continue to pave the way for survivors and sex trafficking education in our community!