I don’t think I can stress enough that human trafficking is an international issue, meaning it’s happening right now not only in Thailand, but also in Virginia. It’s not so hidden. It seems like every other day I’m hearing a story of a predator who has been detained or a victim who has escaped and survived. These stories give us hope. Make no mistake this is a HUGE human rights issue. But just because something seems difficult to address doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye or give up. I believe we have a responsibility as a people, whether you are in the social work field or not, to advocate for the human rights of all who are oppressed. It helps me to know that there are things we can do on a small scale to affect such a massive problem.
- Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
- Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
- Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
- Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
- Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
Human trafficking victims can be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry (prostitution).
And here’s one more thing to consider: while the majority of human trafficking victims in FBI investigations are from other countries and may speak little or no English, approximately 33 percent of victims are Americans. They come from a variety of groups that are vulnerable to coercive tactics—like minors, certain immigrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers, the mentally challenged and/or minimally educated, and those who come from cultures that historically distrust law enforcement or who have little or no experience with the legal system.