Human trafficking occurs in almost every country. Due to language barriers and threats from criminals, victims are often afraid to seek help. Criminals force victims into trades such as prostitution and illegal labor. Since 2013, Garden of Hope has served hundreds of Chinese-speaking immigrants who are at risk of being trafficked or have been trafficked.
What is Human Trafficking?
“Traffickers often prey on the vulnerability of immigrants.” Human trafficking is a rights violation in which people are treated as objects that can be bought, used and sold. Traffickers often prey on the vulnerability of immigrants and use many methods to control victims, especially force, fraud, or coercion (National Institute of Justice, 2012). The purpose is to exploit them for profit.
Myths & Facts About Human Trafficking
Myth: Only young girls are subject to human trafficking.
Facts: According to Polaris, the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 19 years old (Polaris, 2016). Contrary to the myth, the average age is 44 years old of the clients Garden of Hope has been serving. They are primarily middle-aged single mothers who are sole bread winners for their family, experiencing financial hardship before coming from their home country.
Myth: Human trafficking only occurs in third world countries or countries in poverty and is not common in the US.
Facts: A total of 1.5 million people were trafficked in developed countries (ILO, 2012a). Many of our clients were found to have been trafficked internationally from China to the US or were trafficked domestically in the United States.
Myth: Victims of human trafficking always undergo a process of being transported from one country to another.
Facts: 58% of trafficking victims experienced trafficking within their country of origin (ILO, 2012b).
Myth: Victims of human trafficking are always kept confined by their trafficker.
Facts: Traffickers often use tactics such as debt bondage or threat to harm a victim’s family to keep the victim from escaping even when (s)he has freedom of movement.
Myth: Smuggling equals human trafficking.
Facts: Smuggling does not equal human trafficking. Human trafficking may occur within the context of smuggling when involving elements of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.
Myth: Victims of human trafficking are all undocumented immigrants.
Facts: Native born Americans, such as runaway teens who had experienced violence and abuse at home, are in high risk of falling into the trap of traffickers (Clawson et al., 2017). Traffickers do prey on undocumented immigrants who are without social safety net, experience economic hardship, and have limited resources.
The Challenge of Finding Victims
“The number one challenge in victim identification comes from the victim’s unawareness of their own victimization”
Most trafficking victims are victimized by those who are from their home country, having the same ethnic or cultural background, or by those who have knowledge of their personal history, making them vulnerable to be exploited. The majority of the women that GOH serves are victims and potential victims of sex trafficking referred by law enforcement intervention. Traffickers use a combination of tactics, categorized in the Power and Control Wheel (Polaris Project, 2010), to control victims. Such as:
- Economic control: Creating dependency on the traffickers and make victims feel guilty and ashamed of their situation
- Minimization: making victims believe that they have consented to providing commercial sex. Traffickers often deny responsibility and instill distrust towards the police, public defenders, and service providers
- Threatening: To harm a victim’s family, to expose a victim to his/ her community, and/ or to report the victim to police/ immigration.
- Misrepresenting and normalizing sexual violence as “work hazard”.
We found that: The number one challenge in victim identification comes from the victim’s unawareness of their own victimization. Others factors, such as their fear of law enforcement, fear of deportation, feelings of shame and guilt towards their previous work, and fear of being exposed to their family and their community, combine with traffickers’ coercive tactics, external vulnerability, (i.e. limited resources as new immigrants, and economic hardship), and the internal vulnerability (i.e. past trauma) all compromise help-seeking actions.
Trafficking In Relation To Intimate Partner Relationship:
Finding a woman in a violent intimate relationship may sometimes lead to the discovery of human trafficking. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker romances a target of prey, sometimes even become her spouse or an intimate partner, to force or coerce her into engaging commercial sex or free labor, using psychological control or physical, emotional abuse.
Resource and Reference
Safety Planning: How to Seek Help?
If you suspect you or someone you know may be a victim of trafficking:
Call 911 when you are in immediate danger or an emergency.
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888)
Call Garden of Hope’s Helpline (1-877-990-8595)
Keep personal IDs, bank cards, phone or medicine in a bag others cannot access so you can bring along when escaping.
Keep connected to means of communication either through phones, phone cards, or internet.
Plan about places to stay after escaping.
Save money for emergency use and keep in mind trusted people you can borrow money from if you escaped.
Collect evidence of trafficking if possible, such as locations, names, and photos, but always keep your safety as a priority.
Do not hesitate to seek help despite of your immigration status.
Do not hesitate to seek medical attention when there are injuries.
Do not bathe or wash yourself before a rape kit is administered if you were raped.
Keep alert and always think about your safety.
Seek shelter or a safe place to stay.
Refrain from going to places where the trafficker lives, works, or frequents.
Refrain from going to places where the trafficker knows you often go to.
While the stories are true, client names and some identifying details and information are changed to protect client confidentiality.