Overview of Domestic Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and the United States is one of the top destinations in the world for trafficked victims. As a senior member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), I am well aware of the scope of this tragedy and continue to support global efforts to combat trafficking in persons (TIP).
Every year, tens of thousands of people are trafficked to the United States from over 50 countries worldwide. Half of these victims are children, and nearly 80 percent are women. Centers of tourism, including Las Vegas and Florida, are major destinations for human trafficking victims. The United States has identified Thailand, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic as the main countries of origin for domestic human trafficking, but American men, women, and children are also victims of TIP.
Victims are often tricked into accepting a job offer that promises them a better life. Instead, they find themselves subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. These victims are young children, teenagers, men and women, trapped in a cycle of physical and psychological abuse.
There are a number of ways that you can help to put an end to the unrelenting pain, brutality, and despair that victims of TIP suffer.
Hidden in Plain Sight: How You Can Help Victims of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking could be taking place right next door to you. Since it thrives on secrecy, the more you know, the more you can do to prevent it. One phone call could save a life; therefore, it is helpful to know the signs of human trafficking. A combination of the following indicators may be signs of suspicious activity and possible human trafficking:
A trafficked person may:
Have injuries or signs of physical abuse
- Appear malnourished
- Seem disoriented and not know where he or she is
- Have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes regardless of the weather or circumstances
- Not have identification documents
- Avoid eye contact and appear hesitant to talk to strangers
- Be fearful of authority figures, especially law enforcement
- Rarely be allowed to come and go independently and may be accompanied by someone who controls their every movement
- Work excessively long hours
If you suspect human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The NHTRC Hotline is a 24-hour, 7 day a week, toll-free hotline. NHTRC Call Specialists can connect victims with law enforcement and social service providers in their local area who can help them get out of exploitative situations and into safe environments. In addition to being aware of suspicious activity, you can help end this tragedy by becoming active in your community and talking to your children about the dangers of human trafficking.
To become active in your community, you can:
Learn what is going on in your own neighborhood and recognize signs of activity that seem out of the ordinary
- Lobby for local and state anti-trafficking legislation
- Advocate for local law enforcement training to recognize and assist trafficked persons
- Organize and participate in a community task force against human trafficking
- Invite a speaker to your local community group, place of work, place of worship or civic organization to talk about human trafficking
- Include trafficking awareness programs in your local schools
- Place an article in your professional publication or newsletter or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about ongoing domestic trafficking in Florida
- Talk to your children about guidelines concerning internet usage, the need to be wary of strangers, and the importance of not traveling alone
Current Initiatives to Combat TIP
The United States government is a leader in the global fight against TIP. The United States Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is working on legislative measures to monitor the international travel of sex offenders to prevent sexual exploitation abroad, as well as measures to combat the proliferation of child pornography. Additionally, the OSCE has promoted co-operative assistance agreements between the United States and other foreign governments to target individuals who are profiting from the trafficking of children.
Congress has also passed many pieces of legislation recognizing the significance of this issue, mandating stronger protection for victims, harsher prosecution for criminals and other measures to prevent human trafficking. For example, in 2014, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2283, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act which serves to better monitor and combat human trafficking worldwide.
Additionally, a number of federal agencies have been active in combating TIP. The Department of Health and Human Services assists victims of trafficking in the United States through service programs and public information campaigns, while the Department of Labor funds anti-trafficking programs overseas and works to identify abusive labor practices in the United States. Every year, the Department of State, through its Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, reports the global trafficking situation in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
Congress and the United States Government partner with a number of non-profit organizations (NGOs) to combat TIP. NGOs play an important role in reducing human trafficking by raising awareness within communities, advocating for stronger laws, rescuing and restoring victims of human trafficking, providing direct assistance to victims (including food, shelter, medical care, and legal aid), and conducting research on all aspects of human trafficking.
With the help of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), South Florida law enforcement is investigating more human trafficking offenders. ICE has conducted extensive investigations in South Florida, resulting in successful arrests and rescues by local law enforcement units. Law enforcement officials find new leads, make new arrests, and save more innocent lives every day.
Links and Additional Resources
The Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
The Commission on the Security and Cooperation in Europe
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center
The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking