Human trafficking is an increasing problem that involves both sexual exploitation and labor exploitation of its victims. Trafficking affects all regions and the majority of countries in the world. Both men and women may be victims of trafficking, but the primary victims worldwide are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Traffickers primarily target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, factors that impede their access to employment, educational opportunities, and other resources.
Statistics suggest there are as many as 27 million people entrapped in slavery around the world. Human trafficking nets anywhere from $32-$150 billion a year and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to the drug trade. A victim has to be subjected only to a form of force, fraud, or coercion once to meet the definition of “trafficking victim” so long as that misconduct was aimed at obtaining their labor, services, or a commercial sex act. The force, fraud, or coercion does not need to be sustained. And movement is not necessary for the definition to be met.
While many people picture a trafficking victim living in a foreign country, the reality is that human trafficking occurs right here in the United States, in our very own backyards. According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 underage girls being sold for sex in America. One out of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of running away from home.
In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 428 calls from individuals in Pennsylvania. From those calls, 116 human trafficking cases were reported (sex trafficking- 84, labor trafficking- 20, sex and labor- 3, trafficking type not specified- 9). Per Shared Hope International, Pennsylvania earned a grade of C with the greatest concern areas being identified as criminal provisions addressing demand and protective provisions for the child victims.
Human trafficking is a very real and a hugely alarming problem. It affects men, women, and children, and it is happening right in our own backyards. Take a look around your community, and ask yourself not if this is happening, but where it is happening. Then stop to ask, “What am I doing about it?”