If you have ever taken a psych class you are probably familiar with this pyramid. It’s Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation. This theory explains humans’ basic psychological needs like water, shelter and food, up to needs such as acceptance, purpose and inner-potential. For a human to be fully healthy in body and mind they need all of these areas to be filled.
But as we know, for most, maybe even all, humans don’t have all these areas fulfilled. This leaves us having vulnerable areas in varying levels depending on which section of the pyramid we are missing and which sections are combined. For instance, if you are homeless and hungry, your most basic needs are not being met, leaving you vulnerable in the area of “Psychological Needs”. On the other hand you could have plenty of food and a beautiful, safe home but still feel like you are unloved and alone. This would leave you vulnerable in the “Love and Belonging” section. Any person can have vulnerabilities in any given section in any combination.
I am passionate about this topic because I have noticed that most people think if they have the bottom three, or even just two, sections of the pyramid fulfilled that they are not vulnerable. But they, unfortunately, are very wrong. Even though their vulnerabilities are not as clearly seen by those around them, they are deeply rooted within the person and some people can detect them. Hopefully in some cases those people are caring peers or individuals in their lives but some could be those who want to exploit these vulnerabilities.
In the population of those who would exploit those vulnerabilities are pimps, traffickers or controllers. (Which are the same: according to federal and NJ state law, anyone who uses force, fraud or coercion in selling someone in commercial sex is considered a sex trafficker). Traffickers target those with vulnerabilities and then exploit them by selling them for sex or sex acts. Here is how one trafficker used Maslow's Theory of Human Motivation to exploit those vulnerabilities.
He is basically saying that whatever this person is missing from their lives he will attempt to fill in order to take advantage of that person. This is seen as a more effective form of recruitment because then their victim has dependency and may even love or trust their perpetrator. This also contributes to Stockholm Syndrome which is common among victims of abuse and or kidnapping/hostage situations. This syndrome is when the victim has loving feelings for their abuser/captor; a survival technique.
Because of recruitment methods such as this one, people from all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses can be trafficked. This is all the more reason to be aware of our own vulnerabilities and those who are in our lives, whether they be our family, friends, coworkers, school mates or even neighbors. If we can fill those vulnerable areas by being a friend or helping support a struggling family we could potentially rescue them from the sights of an exploiter. This can play a major role in someone being vulnerable to exploitation in general, not just trafficking.
A survivor leader that we’ve worked with at Love True once told me that if someone, even just one had said something when they saw the suspicious activities going on that her experience of being exploited by a neighbor may have been prevented. So, if it’s that simple, if the answer to a massive social injustice is to care for those around you and help fill vulnerable areas than why don’t we do it? Awareness. People do not know just how important it is and what effect they may have on those around them. Our actions and words have power and they have the power to possibly prevent someone's life from being stolen in one way or another. So next time you see something, be sure to say something. When you notice a lacking area in a life ask yourself, “can I help fill it”. Know that you can make all the difference in someone’s life just by being aware of their life and choosing to act against exploitation.
If you know someone who is at risk or is being sex trafficked please call the National Sex Trafficking Hotline 888-3737-888