The Fraud and Deception Behind Human Trafficking

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What if someone came into your life and gave you the guarantee of amazing opportunities? This may sound like a great occurrence, but it is quite the opposite once that person enslaves you into human trafficking. Human Trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation” ('Overview of Human Trafficking and NIJ's Role'). Human Trafficking is a global issue that manifests in the forms of labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and organ harvesting, all of which have detrimental psychological effects on victims, and often times human trafficking has many stereotypes associated with it.

One form of human trafficking that takes place worldwide is labor trafficking, also known as involuntary servitude. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, “Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” This form of trafficking usually manifests in situations involving forced labor, debt bondage, and involuntary child labor. As stated by End Slavery Now, “Forced labor is most like historic American slavery: coerced, often physically and without pay.” Labor trafficking is one example of human trafficking taking place in the United States, and around the world.

Labor trafficking includes a wide variety of situations involving victims of all ages anywhere in the world. According to the National Labor Trafficking Hotline, victims of labor trafficking produce a high number of goods that are purchased in the United States whether these goods are imported internationally, or produced within the country. One thing that consumers do not realize is that the higher the demand is for products, the more labor trafficking is succeeding as these goods make their way into the global market. Labor traffickers will use violence, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion to force victims to work against their will in different labor industries. Victims of labor trafficking are held in inhumane conditions, and some common situations they are in consist of victims working as domestic servants, farmworkers, or factory workers (“Labor Trafficking”). Within labor trafficking, “about 20.9 million women, men, and children are trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave around the world” (New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour, 2012). This form of human trafficking victimizes humans from anywhere in the world.

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Another form of human trafficking that occurs is sex trafficking. According to Shared Hope International, sex trafficking occurs when “someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.” Victims usually perform commercial sex acts such as prostitution, pornography, or any sexual performance in exchange for food, shelter, or clothing (“What is Sex Trafficking?”). Sex traffickers target victims and use threats, violence, lies, debt bondage, false promises, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims within the sex industry so that they continue to profit (“Sex Trafficking”). This particular form of trafficking goes through a cycle: It starts with the trafficker, who exploits victims to earn revenue from buyers. Then, buyers fuel the market with their money when they purchase victims. Victims include both males and females that are bought and sold for profit (“What is Sex Trafficking?”). According to Cara Kelly, an investigative reporter from USA Today, there are more than four million victims of sex trafficking globally. Kelly also states that one in seven reported child runaways in 2018 are victims of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is a global issue, and falls under the spectrum of modern-day slavery.

A third form of human trafficking that is not discussed very often is organ harvesting, also known as the organ trade. Organ trafficking is “a lucrative global illicit trade, (and) is often a lesser discussed form of human trafficking due to its intricate and often stealth nature” (Bain, Mari, & Delmonico 2018). This manifestation of human trafficking stems from the fact that so many people in the world are desperately in need of an organ transplant for medical reasons. The demand for organs is very high, which helps the organ trafficking industry thrive. Unfortunately, both the donors and recipients are at a high risk of experiencing many health complications in the future if the organs and persons involved are not properly taken care of. According to ACAMS Today, “the most prominent organs that are traded illicitly are kidneys, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that 10,000 kidneys are traded on the black market worldwide annually, or more than one every hour.” However, there is a variety of other organs that are also trafficked including corneas worth around $30,000 each, lungs that are $150,000- $170,000 each, the heart worth about $130,000-$160,000, livers estimated to be $150,000 each, the pancreas which is usually $98,000-$130,000, and finally, kidneys worth $62,000 each (Perry 2018). Organ harvesting may not gain the same amount of attention that other forms of human trafficking do, but it is a very real form of modern-slavery that takes place today.

Next, the psychological effects of human trafficking on its victims are all but positive. Many traffickers use fear to convince their victims not to share their trafficking situations with others. According to research done by The Royal College of Psychiatrists, “various countries shows that depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-harm and attempted suicide are common among survivors.” These various forms of psychological damage inflicted upon survivors shows just a glimpse of how intense and horrible their circumstances are. In addition, “evidence of severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, has also been detected among trafficked people” (Altun, Abas, Zimmerman, Howard, & Oram 2017). A study done in England shows that symptoms of depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and anxiety were reported by 78% of females and 40% of male trafficking survivors (Altun, Abas, Zimmerman, Howard, & Oram 2017). Another study of trafficking victims in the Greater Mekong sub-region found that 61% of males, 67% of females, and 57% of children reported depression. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was reported by 46% of men, 44% of women and 27% of children (Oram, Khondoker, Abas, Broadbent, & Howard 2015). Victims are vulnerable to many negative psychological effects when it comes to human trafficking.

There are many bad psychological effects of human trafficking, and many of the victims that experience these effects can be particularly vulnerable to them as a result of their circumstances. Risk of mental disorder “appears to be influenced by multiple factors, including: pre-trafficking abuse; duration of exploitation; violence and restrictions on movement while trafficked; greater numbers of unmet needs; and lower levels of social support following trafficking” (Altun, Abas, Zimmerman, Howard, & Oram 2017). Another mental disorder that is associated with human trafficking is Stockholm Syndrome. This disorder includes “traumatic bonding where victims find it challenging to leave their abusers” (Hampton 2019). Victims use their Stockholm Syndrome as a survival mechanism since traffickers will sometimes supply victims with shelter, food, and clothing even though they have enslaved them. Victims are also terrified to leave their abusers in fear of being killed or harmed (Hampton 2019). Certain situations victims are placed in creates variation in the psychological damage that occurs.

Finally, there are many different images used to depict human trafficking. Human trafficking is a devastating occurrence, but when looking through different visuals found in online articles and websites such as “Anti-Human Trafficking Ads” and in The Nevada Independent, there is hypersexualization and stereotyping portrayed. From these images, one may conclude that human traffickers are made up of just males, and the victims are always children and women. However, this is not the case: According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, 28% of trafficking victims are male, a percentage that has been on the rise for years. In addition, viewers may also believe that human trafficking is very violent, which in turn can create the belief that a victim is always scarred, cut, and bruised. In reality, “most human traffickers use psychological means such as, tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor” (2019), meaning that a good amount of human trafficking can go unnoticed when it does not follow the stereotypes shown in images. This does not mean that human trafficking is not violent, but rather there are other ways trafficking manifests then what is shown. Human Trafficking is always occuring worldwide and manifests in different ways. Traffickers take advantage of their victims for their own profit, and there is much to be done to eliminate this modern-day slavery. There is always something to be done to help a person who is trafficked for labor, sex, or organ harvesting. Before jumping for an amazing opportunity given to you, make sure these promises are not empty, nor dangerous. Human Trafficking can happen to anyone, and if we stay alert, we can make a difference today.

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