What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are used for forced labor or sexual exploitation. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is a federal law that criminalizes the act of human trafficking and was first signed into action in early 2000. The act focuses on combating human trafficking through prevention, protection and prosecution. According to U.S. law under the TVPA, human trafficking is defined as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery”. The TVPA was reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Who are the Victims of Human Trafficking?
Victims of human trafficking can be of any sex, race or age. It is important to understand that human trafficking can occur to anyone, anywhere and in any situation. However, certain demographical trends have been observed. It is estimated that about 80% of the victims of human trafficking are female and up to half are minors. Trafficked women are typically under 25 years of age, with the majority being in their mid to late teens. For the most part, children tend to be trafficked within their own countries, while women aged 18 to 30 tend to be trafficked internationally, mostly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
Florida: A Modern Slavery Hub
Florida is commonly known amongst law enforcement personnel to have one of the highest incidences of human trafficking in the country. In fact, Florida is commonly cited along with New York and California as being one of the top three destinations for trafficking victims in the United States. Victims of sex trafficking typically wind up in large cities, vacation and tourist spots, and near military bases, where the demand for sex trafficking is incredibly high.
Additionally, labor trafficking victims are typically utilized in areas where there is a demand for unskilled labor, which is present in sectors such as seasonal agriculture, garment manufacturing, construction and domestic servitude. Florida’s economic climate, largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, renders it an ideal destination for human trafficking victims. Additional factors creating a high demand for victims of human trafficking include Florida’s eight military bases along with South Florida’s geographical location, which makes it a strategic entry point for traffickers bringing victims from Latin America and the Caribbean into the United States. In fact, Miami International Airport is ranked as one of the top entry points in the United States for foreign human trafficking victims. Finally, the rich demographic composition of Florida, ranking third for the number of immigrants living within its borders, provides a steady supply of vulnerable victims for traffickers to prey on. From prostitution to indentured servants to migrant farm workers, Florida exhibits a uniquely high demand for traffickers to profit from.
What Exactly Can You Do?
At the moment, human trafficking is considered a highly profitable industry because of the high demand and low risk associated with it. The lack of a multiplicity of factors such as community awareness around the issue, comprehensive legislature, resources and concern for victims all work together to make the industry relatively low-risk. Human trafficking victims exist in plain sight and yet the number of investigations and prosecutions remain relatively low. This allows traffickers to make significant profits while maintaining a low risk of being caught.
Additionally, the investment a trafficker makes in a victim is also quite low, rendering the activity of trafficking to be that much more profitable. Unlike the drug trade, in which once the substance is sold it is used up, people can be sold over and over again. Human trafficking victims are ultimately perceived as reusable commodities.
Human trafficking is not a victimless crime, nor is it a harmless crime. Community members often come across labor and sex trafficking situations in their day-to-day routines. Informing yourself and others on how to recognize and report human trafficking situations is the first step to making human trafficking a high-risk industry. By increasing the number of community-based tips, more victims will receive help from law enforcement and social providers, allowing them to escape exploitative situations and return to safe environments. Furthermore, the identification of victims often leads to the prosecution of their traffickers, thereby bringing criminals to justice.
For a comprehensive account of how to identify potential victims of human trafficking, please visit the following links generated by the US Department of State:
2017 Trafficking Report
Identifying and Helping Trafficking Victims
15 Ways You Can Help
If you feel that you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888. This number should be stored in your cell phone as you never know when you will come into contact with a potential victim. The NHTRC is a 24/7 toll-free hotline that provides callers with a range of services including tip reporting, training and technical assistance and referrals for victims.