Serving survivors of trafficking is rarely kicking down doors. Everyday heroes are on the frontlines changing lives and ending exploitation.
“When I turned 14, my aunt sold me to my trafficker. Hollywood (TV) makes leaving trafficking seem so simple and fast. It’s not… It’s hard… Sometimes it’s a “lucky rescue” if someone else reports it and the building or place gets raided. Sometimes it’s going to jail that gets you out. Sometimes you just gather up the courage and you finally say enough is enough.
But sometimes you never really leave. Even after you physically get out. Sometimes it creeps up on you through flashbacks or nightmares. Sometimes the hurt is just in your heart…..” -Survivor blog
Human trafficking does not begin when someone is taken overseas. Trafficking happens right here, on our soil, in the United States, and in our communities. Over 300,000 American Children are trafficked for sex in the U.S. each year.
Traffickers typically aren’t strangers abducting children. 40% of trafficking victims are first trafficked by a family member or someone they are close with. The average age when a child is first trafficked is only 12 years old. Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most common include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises to fulfill their target's needs with the motive to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their families (Human Trafficking Hotline) (Administration for Children and Families).
Trafficked children are not typically being sold to millionaire pedophiles. Oftentimes, trafficked children are sold to middle or upper-class community members in the communities they belong to (Demand Buyer Report). A 2017 study on sex buyers in Minnesota found that the majority of buyers in their state are white, middle-to-upper-class, married men.
Just as human trafficking doesn’t begin with someone being taken overseas, it doesn’t end when someone is carried away from the hell they have been living in. Without a safe place to go upon identification, 80% of children end up back in their traffickers' hands. Why? Because it is not enough to help victims escape their trafficking situation. Survivors must have access to restorative care that facilitates their journey to freedom within themselves as they heal from their trauma. Accessible restorative care is accomplished by intentionally building programs that decrease barriers to care and increase equitable services, expanding upon pre-existing programs and services, and continuing to develop innovative solutions. A continuum of restorative care is critical to the recovery and protection of survivors.
While it may feel more comfortable to think that trafficking always looks like a foreigner stealing American kids and taking them to another country because it takes the responsibility off of our shoulders for anything but the rescue. It can also be empowering to realize that if we are responsible for a bigger piece of the puzzle, then we can have a bigger impact in the eradication of trafficking. When we start to look at the whole picture, we can confront the deep-rooted issues within our culture, like the over-sexualization of children, child pornography, systems that cater to perpetrators, and a lack of access to restorative care.
We can’t all travel overseas and break down doors, but you can help break the cycle of exploitation and protect future generations. You can learn to recognize and report suspected trafficking and then help educate others by sending or posting the OnWatch training. You can reject the normalization of pornography by educating yourself on how porn fuels trafficking. By supporting accessible restorative care options for survivors, you can promote healing for survivors and give them hope for the future.
The sound of freedom is not one person or one organization; it is a collective group of everyday heroes who dedicate their lives to supporting survivors and taking action for lasting change.
How is the anti-trafficking industry taking action and making change?
- TVPA’s 3 Pillars: Prevention, Prosecution, and Protection
- Check out your state’s response
- Emergency response and continuum of care
- OnWatch - Free Human Trafficking Training
- Healthcare Training with CEs for Nurses
- Join TSEC/ Policy work
The sound of freedom is an ACTION from all of us. There has never been a better time to act and defend the rights of trafficking survivors. Together, we can eradicate trafficking in the United States by 2030. Will you join us?
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
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