Sara is an 18 year old woman from Cleveland. Her uncle, David, lives in Atlanta, Georgia, but occasionally comes home. On one of his visits, Uncle David tells Sara that there are good restaurant jobs in Atlanta for young women. He says that if she comes to Atlanta with him, he will help her find a good job so that she can earn a lot of money. Sara agrees to go to Georgia, but when they arrive in Atlanta, he takes away her ID documents, including her passport. Uncle David tells Sarah that she must pay for all their living expenses by working as a prostitute. Sara is very afraid, but when she refuses, he threatens to kill her. Eventually, after being threatened and beaten, Sara agrees to work as a prostitute for her uncle. Sara is a victim of human trafficking.
Human trafficking does not only affect young women.Older women, men, and children as young as five are forced to beg and steal, used as domestic slaves, work on farms and in factories, or forced into pornography and sex work. Young women are at greater risk because traffickers can make a lot of money by forcing them into prostitution. Abandoned children are also vulnerable. Without parents, guardians, or anyone else to take care of them, abandoned children seek refuge in orphanages, shelters, or on the streets. Because they often lack education, proper identity documents, and rarely have an obvious means of economic support, they are easy targets for traffickers, who promise them opportunities in another country and an easier life.
Many people think that all women who are trafficked are prostitutes. Some also think that prostitution is a glamorous life of romance, silk stockings and money. But the reality is different. Many women who are trafficked are forced into prostitution against their will. They are beaten, raped, and abused. They go abroad based on false promises of good jobs, educational opportunities, and offers of marriage, often with the ambition to make a better life for their children and families. Some women lack the education they need to find a good job, while others are professionals who cannot find work in their chosen profession. They are students, accountants, nurses and teachers. They are people just like you.
Traffickers most often promise their victims exciting jobs, but promises of marriages and educational opportunities are also common. In some countries, young women do traffickers only recruit prostitutes?
Many people think that all women who are trafficked are prostitutes. Some also think that prostitution is a glamorous life of romance, silk stockings and money. But the reality is different. Many women who are trafficked are forced into prostitution against their will. They are beaten, raped, and abused. They go abroad based on false promises of good jobs, educational opportunities, and offers of marriage, often not have the opportunities they wish for at home and hope to achieve their goals abroad. When they are approached by someone promising good opportunities many young women think their dreams are coming true and agree to go with a trafficker. In other cases, traffickers are known to forcibly abduct their victims.
The trafficker usually makes all the travel arrangements, and pays all the costs for passports and visas, tickets, meals and housing. Sometimes a trafficker will also bribe state officials to transport his victim across international borders or to get the right travel documents quickly. In some cases, a victim pays her trafficker to transport her to another country only to be enslaved and exploited by him once she arrives at her destination.
Trafficking victims are often recruited by an acquaintance, and sometimes by a close friend or family member. Traffickers may come from the same poor social and economic background as their victims, or appear to be successful businesspeople able to offer their victims better opportunities. Traffickers try to appear trustworthy. They may be school friends or relatives. Sometimes even parents are involved in trafficking their children.
Trafficking for sexual exploitation is very common, but there are many other forms of exploitation. Children and adults are enslaved in domestic labour, illegal sweatshops, on farms or in mines, and in other work. They are often sold or resold, earning profits for traffickers. Victims of trafficking are enslaved, exploited and denied their basic human rights.
Traffickers use many kinds of tricks to discourage their victims from escaping. One common ploy is to confiscate the victim’s passport once she is in the destination country, while telling her that if she escapes, the police will imprison her for being an illegal immigrant. Another trick, known as “debt bondage,” is to have the victim sign a contract that says she will pay the trafficker for transportation services, making her believe she must pay the debt even if she is forced to work in deplorable conditions. Some victims are locked up and not allowed to leave the premises where they are being exploited. Many are beaten, raped, and tortured by their traffickers so that they will be too afraid to try to escape. A trafficker may also threaten to harm the victim’s family if she does not agree to his demands.
Fear of police is understandable. Many victims enter their destination countries illegally, or have their passports confiscated by traffickers. Traffickers often tell their victims that if they try to escape, the police will deport or imprison them for a long time for being prostitutes or illegal immigrants. They may also threaten the family and friends of victims who go to the police for help. But the majority of women and girls who have managed to escape to safety have done so with the help of the police. Many have been freed by police after raids on brothels, apartments and private houses where they are held. The police can help you.
Traffickers are criminals, and human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights. If you know someone who has been trafficked, you have a duty to report the case to the police or to an organization like the Collaborative Initiate to End Human Trafficking. In doing so, you will help to free someone from slavery, and ensure that the traffickers are caught and punished, and do not continue to enslave others.