Part of the problem of human trafficking is that no one wants to really talk about it. That’s understandable, it’s a pretty unsavory topic that forces one to acknowledge that there are people out there that still hold to the idea of slavery, that still exploit children and the disadvantaged, and force them – through physicality, drugs, or emotional ransom tactics – to do things no one wants to talk about.
But like all atrocities modern and medieval, silence is the ground in which these things are allowed to grow.
To that end, Perma-Pier is proud to support National Human Trafficking Awareness Month – which is this January. As we’ve mentioned before, we at Perma-Pier have chosen to partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to donate a portion of our proceeds to help in the fight against missing children through increased education and stronger legislation, as well as to offer support to those who are the victims of such an unspeakable grief – both the children and their families.
The Department of Homeland Security designated 1/11 as #wearblueday, and you might have noticed our posts on social media where we all wore blue in support of this awareness campaign.
Awareness, of course, is not enough. Awareness is only one part of the education process – typically the first step – but further education is required before we can be moved to action. So let’s dive a little deeper into the true scope of this problem:
So what exactly is human trafficking?
Of course, the headline-maker is the sex trade, from illicit massage parlors to outright prostitution and pornography. While we hope most of us won’t be engaging in that particular economy, human trafficking by no means ends there. Did you know that human trafficking permeates all manner of labor pools? From domestic work (maids, gardeners, etc…) to agriculture (pickers/harvesters), restaurants/food service, even traveling sales crews and “begging rings” -people are being abducted and forced to work against their will.
So the obvious question that some will ask is: Why don’t they just run away?
There are numerous reasons:
- Some are too young or weak to defend themselves and are kept literally under lock and key as well as surveillance and the threat of violence.
- Others can be kept by way of threats of physical violence against the victim’s families and loved ones.
- Some fall under the category of “debt bondage” where traffickers obligate victims to stay under their oppression by creating a vicious cycle of “you need to pay me for room and board and meals, etc…” but then paying them little to nothing at all, so as to never get ahead of the perceived debt.
- Others fall prey to isolation – being ripped from their home country and native tongue, and dropped in a foreign land completely cut off from anyone that loves them – let alone speaks their language, as well as having any forms of identification taken away so that the victim is a defacto criminal through no fault of their own. This, like the debt bondage tactic, creates a sense of belief in the victim that their captor is their only lifeline, that their only hope of staying out of jail, or of being deported, lies in compliance with their wishes.
- Then there is the emotional attachment ploy, the captor assumes the role of “boyfriend” and may occasionally flash glimpses fo compassion to keep the victim under their control. There is a high incidence of what has come to be called the Stockholm Syndrome amongst victims of human trafficking of this nature.
The problem is a Texas problem.
Another one of those ugly truths we’d like to shed a light on is that our great state of Texas is #2 in the nation in incidents of reported – that’s just reported – cases of human trafficking for Q1 and Q2 of 2018. Be it a function of our population, or sharing a border, or whatever reason, this is a stat no one wants. In 2017 alone, there were 1,089 victims identified, 237 trafficking businesses identified, and 606 traffickers identified. This heat map, powered by data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline shows that our home, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is a significant source of these offenses:
No one is immune.
Another fact that is often overlooked is that the demographic makeup of victims is far more varied than we think. Despite movies and news stories of underage victims from third-world countries being shipped around the globe, a study in 2014 found that just in sex-trade victims alone, 40.4% were African American, and 25.6% were Caucasian – the two largest racial populations among victims of human trafficking in the sex trade. Another 2014 study (PDF) identified nearly 6,000 cases of sex-trafficking in which every victim was a U.S. citizen.
So, while this is an unpleasant subject, know that:
- Texas is #2 in the nation, so it is a very real, and very local problem.
- Racial and socioeconomic factors will not protect you – predation knows no bounds.
- The numbers are growing despite our best efforts.
- More than awareness is needed
So what can you do about?
First and foremost, as a parent, you will want to educate your children on what do when interacting with strangers, in real life and online. The sad truth is that these predators, like all hunters, are relying on their prey making that one fatal mistake. Some great resources to consider as a family are:
- Kidsmartz.org: Free safety program that educates families about preventing abduction & empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safe behaviors. Has age-appropriate videos, printables, tips, music, etc.
- Netsmartz.org: An interactive educational program that teaches basic internet safety. Age-appropriate resources to teach children how to be safer online.
- Newsmartz411.org: A great resource for parents & guardians answering questions about internet safety, computers, and the like.
- Removal of Explicit Content: A how-to guide to have inappropriate pictures taken down from the Internet
You can also:
- Donate to the NCMEC here.
- Sign up as a volunteer here where you will receive training to help in whatever capacity you wish.
Finally, remaining vigilant and aware of signs of someone who might be a victim of human trafficking, and knowing when and how to take the appropriate actions.
Together, we can protect our children, the children of our fellow Texans, and the children of our fellow man by raising awareness, supporting these initiatives, and educating ourselves on what to look for and how to help.