Over the past centuries, different countries have engaged in human trafficking for different reasons. Slave trade, for instance, was common during the pre-colonial period in most parts of the world. In modern times, trafficking of human beings is still being practiced especially into the United States. This research paper seeks to investigate human trafficking in the United States. It offers an understanding of human trafficking and its prevalence in America.
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It identifies the victims of human trafficking in terms of their commonalities and the risk factors involved. The paper also discusses the needs of the victims of human trafficking, the challenges faced in the attempt to offer the appropriate services. Moreover, efforts to combat this problem as well as future interventions are highlighted. A conclusion of the research findings is provided.
Over the past centuries, different countries have engaged in human trafficking for different reasons. Slave trade, for instance, was common during the pre-colonial period in most parts of the world. In modern times, trafficking of human beings is still being practiced especially into the United States and some parts of Asia. The research paper seeks to investigate human trafficking in the United States. It offers an understanding of human trafficking and its prevalence in America.
It identifies the victims of human trafficking in terms of their commonalities and the risk factors involved. The paper also discusses the needs of the victims of human trafficking and the challenges faced in the attempt to offer the appropriate services. Moreover, efforts to combat this problem and the future of human trafficking are highlighted. A conclusion of the research findings is provided.
Human trafficking involves and significantly affects almost every country in the world and has been identified as one of the most rapidly growing criminal engagement globally.
According to a study by Estes and Weiner (2001), this crime is likened to other cross-boundary major and minor criminal organizations, illegal immigrations, and other malpractices. Over a long period of time, trafficking has been understood as the trade involving women and young girls for sexual exploitation and other morally unacceptable practices (Europol, 2005).
With the changing times and its experiences, researchers have defined trafficking in general sense to incorporate many factors such as deceptive practices, and the use of force besides exploitation for sexual purposes. The concept of trafficking was initially taken as being the universal transportation of people or other subjects across nations or demarcated boundaries (Estes & Weiner, 2001).
At the dawn of the 21st century, however, attempts were made to formulate a universal definition of human trafficking. As a result of this quest, according to DeStefano (2007), an international definition was included in the United Nations Protocol which ensures the protection of persons, containment of trafficking and the punishment of those engaged in human trafficking activities, especially those targeting the women and minors.
According to a definition provided by the U.N Protocol, human trafficking is defined as the enlisting of an individual, physically transferring a person from his or her home or country, taking hostage and the reception of a human person, by use of threats and other forms of coercive power like abduction, fraudulence, tactful deception, and other related ways of abusing power, or wooing a person using money and gaining full control of a person for exploitation purposes (DeStefano, 2007).
In the United States, the congress provided a definition of human trafficking. There are two categories of trafficking of persons. First, there is sex trafficking and secondly, labor force trafficking.
Sex trafficking refers to the conscription, holding, transfer, supply, or otherwise obtaining an individual with an intention of using him or her for commercial sex activities, where the acts are induced through intimidation or other forms of coercion and deception or in a situation where an individual being used for commercial sex purposes is under 18 years of age.
A commercial sex act is defined as any sex activity in which a valuable thing is offered in exchange by any given person. There are different classifications of sex trafficking, but all fall under the broad aspects of prostitution and pornography commonly involving women and girls.
Labor trafficking, on the other hand, is defined in the U.S as the systematic enrollment, holding, transfer, supply, or obtaining an individual with an aim of abusing him or her through forceful means of subjecting the person into involuntary servitude (Europol, 2005). Research findings further reveal that men constitute the highest number of labor trafficking victims (DeStefano, 2007).
Human trafficking, otherwise known as trafficking in persons, is used by modern day researchers in place of the ancient term-slavery. According to the definition recognized in the U.S., absence of transportation or physical movement of the victims does not imply absence of trafficking crime. However, the presence of deliberate use of force, deception, or coercion generally referred to as exploitation implies the occurrence of human trafficking (Protection Project, 2002). The legal framework provided by the U.S. offers the measures for preventing trafficking, protecting and assisting the victims (Morehouse, 2009). Efforts have been made to address the problem of human trafficking into and within the United States since these problems have been in existence for a considerably long period of time of now.
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Human Trafficking Within the United States
For a long period of time, investigations into human trafficking in the U.S. have focused mainly on the transportation of persons into the country. Most researchers have singled out the United States as the most preferred destination by human traffickers (Morehouse, 2009).
This trend, however, has changed over the recent past and concentrated mostly on addressing trafficking within America, especially involving sex trafficking and prostitution of children. According to many sociological researchers, it is difficult to accurately predict the prevalence rates of human trafficking in any given country. This has been associated with unreliable data and research methodologies. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of persons are trafficked into other countries annually, most of who are under age 18.
Research data revealed by the U.S. State Department indicate that an overwhelming 80% of internationally trafficked persons are female of which about 70% are victims of the sex industry (U.S. Department of State, 2005). The International Labor Organization conducted research and found that about 12 million people at any given moment in time are in forced labor, child labour abuse, and other means of exploitation (International Labor Organization, 2005).
Most recent studies have attempted to focus on domestic trafficking of persons in the U.S. According to research by Estes and Weiner (2001), about 300,000 youth in America are at risk of sex trafficking, while nearly 200,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of children are estimated to occur annually. These estimates are not inclusive of adults who are at risk of being trafficked and exploited sexually, as well as the adults and minors trafficked into the labor industry.
Research findings by Estes and Weiner (2001) provides an estimate of the prevalence of domestic human trafficking in the U.S. since it focuses on the most vulnerable groups, particularly the youth. They have been identified as being at a higher risk of being trafficked into commercial sex (Estes and Weiner, 2001). Data released by the United States Department of State (2005) indicate that the runaway and homeless youth are at a higher risk of being victims of trafficking.
Another indicator of the prevalence rate of human trafficking within the U.S. is provided by the data from the national juvenile arrests. In 2003, according to the United States Department of Justice, about 2.2 million juveniles were arrested, of whom 1,400 were youth involved in prostitution and other commercialized practices. 69% of these youth were identified as being female and 14% of them were below age 15 (Europol, 2005). These national figures of sexual exploitation of the youth and children had increased significantly since 1994.
On the other hand, American children are also trafficked for forced domestic labor as compared to their adult counterparts (Bruckert and Parent, 2002).
The minors are the most preferred, due to the fact that they offer cheap labor, are easy to control, and are less agitated by inappropriate treatment during work (Estes and Weiner, 2001). A study conducted by the International Labor Organization in 2002 revealed that there is rampant forced child labor in both developed and developing countries. The study found that girl child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is common in the U.S. Also, the girls are commonly trafficked for the provision of domestic services.
The same study indicated that boys are mostly trafficked for the purposes of forced labor in large-scale farming, juvenile offences, and drug trafficking. A common recommendation from most of the researchers is that further research should be conducted to provide accurate estimates for the prevalence rates of human trafficking in the United States.
Victims of Human Trafficking
According to Bruckert and Parent (2002), unreliable sources of information always depict the victims of trafficking as being young and innocent girls who are wooed from their homes and exploited sexually. However, people of all sexes and ages are victims of human trafficking (Bruckert and Parent, 2002). This is due to the fact that the traffickers are looking forward to engaging in commercial sex industry and labor exploitation.
This implies that males and females are used as trade objects for prostitution and selling people to countries in need of cheap labor force. A study by the Florida University Center for Advancement of Human Rights revealed that the victims are mostly transported from their home countries into the U.S. are those persons already in America either legally or illegally who are yearning to make their lives better (Caliber Associates, 2007).
Despite the above facts, these victims have some things in common that make them vulnerable to either sex or labor exploitation. People who live in poverty and are searching for opportunities to meet their basic needs and improve their lives are easily caught by the traffickers. Research by Clawson and Myles (2004) found that the relatively low social status of women and girls in some societies expose them to traffickers who are also driven by the need for cheap labor in other countries.
In the United States, other factors contribute a lot to the vulnerability of some groups to human trafficking. These include: underage, lack of enough education, unemployment, poor family background, physical and psychological challenges, and inhabiting insecure places (DeStefano, 2007). International human trafficking may arise as a result of internal social/civil unrest/war and economic turmoil/crises which forces people to look for opportunities in other countries.
In his book, Morehouse (2009) noted that human victims of trafficking are mostly from poor countries where traffickers have identified them as important source of income generation coupled with the high demand for cheap labor in the developed countries. In 2006 alone, statistics indicated that most certified victims of trafficking of persons in the U.S. were identified as originating from impoverished neighboring countries, such as Mexico and El Salvador (United States Department of State, 2005).
Risk Factors of the Victims
According to Estes and Weiner (2001), poverty plays a central role in placing both children and youth at risk of human trafficking. Children born into economically and socially poor families start early to look for better opportunities in life with minimal success and end up falling in the hands of the traffickers. Poorly paying jobs for young girls also exposes them to greater risk of being recruited by human traffickers, both for cheap labor and sexual exploitation.
Moreover, research has found out that children who are abused sexually are at a greater risk of being prostituted by the traffickers. In fact, most recent studies of women who are prostituted, according to Morehouse (2009), reported that they had been sexually abused in childhood.
Some forms of sexual abuse that the prostituted girls reported included physical sexual molestation, emotional abuse, and gang raping. Further findings reveal that victims of trafficking were born into families where there was rampant substance abuse and unstable families due to divorce or orphanage. All these factors are predispositions to human trafficking, especially into and within the United States.
Needs of Trafficking Victims and Challenges
The discussion above has clearly identified two categories of trafficking victims; international and domestic. The needs are generally emergency services, short-term, and long-term (Clawson & Myles, 2004).
Virtually all victims of human trafficking need the fulfillment of basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and safety. International victims will then need to be given advice on legal matters like immigration status, and court cases involving the traffickers (Caliber Associates, 2007). Other short-term measures for the victims include health/medical services, moral guidance, and other logistical concerns.
Once the immediate needs have been addressed adequately, the victims of trafficking of persons can then be given long-term assistance. Some of the services may include, but are not limited to, post-traumatic treatment, depression and anxiety reduction, education, job training and placement, as well as family reunification/deportation (DeStefano, 2007).
The provision of these services to the victims would not be without associated challenges, both on the side of the service providers and the recipients. According to Bruckert and Parent (2002), many victims fail to identify themselves as such, due to a feeling of shame and fear of stigmatization making it difficult to get them. Also, most of them fear the law enforcers and they lack the necessary knowledge of the available services.
For service providers, communication barriers, lack of adequate and appropriate resources, and the general lack of awareness are among the greatest challenges experienced when it comes to dealing with victims of human trafficking. These challenges have significantly contributed to the difficulty in obtaining accurate statistics on trafficking of persons.
Combating Human Trafficking in the U.S
It is evident that human trafficking is one of the worst exploitative forms that present themselves in the current century, particularly to the United States. According to Morehouse (2009), traffickers of persons are ready to continue violating human rights in their desire to make billions of profits annually. Due to the transnational nature of this criminal activity, both national and international cooperation is paramount if this vice is to be put under control.
The great difference between human trafficking and other forms of trafficking is that persons can be sold and re-sold severally since they are inexhaustible like drugs. The American government, in their attempt to combat human trafficking, has resorted to restructuring immigration policies as well as fiercely fighting prostitution which has been identified as the most motivating factor of trafficking particularly of women and girls.
However, most of the anti-trafficking policies in the U.S. have been criticized as designed to advance hidden policy agenda in the name of combating the trafficking of persons (DeStefano, 2007). This has been characterized by victimization of people suspected to be engaged in terrorist activities.
Interventions and the Future of Human Trafficking
With human trafficking being an international concern, many countries have developed mechanisms to ensure that this problem is put under control. Attempts have been made to put in place effective precautionary practices as well as programs. Concerned parties are strategizing on how the victims, particularly women and minors, can be assisted in overcoming the challenges associated with human trafficking.
The security of the victims is paramount especially in facilitating quick recovery from the trauma associated with trafficking (Caliber Associates, 2007). This is because the traffickers are in most cases involved in other criminal activities and hence are most likely to harass their victims.
To ensure the safety of the victims, the staff handing them are usually trained on how to perform their various rehabilitation responsibilities. In some instances, the members of staff have been the target of the traffickers since they are perceived to be stumbling blocks to their activities.
As a way of protecting these members, their physical locations and any contact address are never made public. Before the victims are grouped together, strict screening of possible infectious diseases is done in order to ensure the safety of everyone in the rehabilitation centers (Caliber Associates, 2007).
Furthermore, in the United States, many organizations have joined hands to combat this vise. This collaborative approach is promising since no single organization can be able to address human trafficking alone. Several collaborations among concerned parties have taking place and their activities are quite promising. Continued evaluation of their successes, however, should be made in order to ensure their effectiveness.
This research paper has explored the concept of human trafficking, particularly in the United States. It has provided a broad definition of human trafficking which involves the use of threats and varied means of coercion and deception to capture the victims and exploit them sexually and or to provide forced labor services. It has also offered an overview of the general prevalence of human trafficking in America. Furthermore, the paper has identified the victims of human trafficking in terms of their commonalities and the associated risk factors.
The research paper has also discussed the needs of the victims of human trafficking and the challenges faced in the attempt to provide the appropriate services. Efforts by the U.S. government to formulate policies that will address and possibly eliminate human trafficking have been discussed. It can be concluded, therefore, that further research has to be conducted if the concept of human trafficking is to be fully understood and dealt with.
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Clawson, H. F. & Myles, B. (2004) Evaluation of needs for service providers and victims of
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DeStefano, A. M. (2007). The war on human trafficking in the U.S: assessment of American policies. Rutgers University Press
Estes, R. G. & Weiner, N. W. (2001). A focus on commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the U.S. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
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