Human Trafficking Occurs in Our Neighborhoods

You wouldn’t think that human trafficking happens in your own neighborhood, but it happens everywhere. Galena Rotary Club invited Toni Lucas to speak to our members about human trafficking this week. Ms. Lucas is the chairperson of Rotary District 6420 Task Force Against Human Trafficking. I was surprised to hear that Illinois ranked number 10 in the US for trafficking in 2017. Nearby Rockford, Illinois was ranked second in the state for human trafficking in 2015. I’m grateful to Rotarian Toni Lucas for educating us about this important issue. The statistics in this article are adapted from her presentation.

So what is human trafficking? Labor trafficking is force, fraud, or coercion used to induce a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery. Sex trafficking is a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.

Who are the victims? Trafficking victims can be any gender, age, race, nationality. In the United States, it happens in all 50 States and in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Individuals who are at risk include people with limited social safety nets, homeless and runaway youth. Or, people who are undocumented or have illegal immigration status, or those with limited English proficiency. However, anyone can become a victim.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 81% of them are trapped in forced labor. 25% of them are children. 75% are female. The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. In fact, the highest days for human trafficking in the US are Super Bowl, Indy 500, and the Kentucky Derby. I will never view these events again without thinking of victims of trafficking.

Here’s what to look for. You might notice that someone is not free to come and go as they wish. They don’t have money even though they work a lot. They owe a large debt and are unable to pay it off. They were recruited through false promises. They don’t have access to their passport or other documentation. There is evidence they are being controlled. They may have a tattoo with the name of a trafficker. They may live with co-workers or their “employer” or there may be secrecy about their whereabouts. For more signs of trafficking perpetrators, refer to the Duluth Model Sex and Labor Trafficking Power and Control Wheel at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/HT%20Power%26Control%20Wheel%20NEW.pdf

Victims can’t escape their situation easily. They might be unaware that what is being done to them is a crime. They may have developed positive feelings or loyalty toward the trafficker. They may fear or distrust law enforcement or social service providers. Many fear for own safety or that of family members or have lack of options. There could easily be fear of deportation or arrest. They may feel shame or fear of what they will face if they come forward.

President Obama made the following remarks to the Clinton Global Initiative on September 25, 2012. “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”

If you suspect human trafficking, call 888-373-7888 to reach the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

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