Imagine if the victim of a crime were prosecuted and imprisoned. Say, the terrified teller who hands over money to the armed robber sticking a gun in her face? Or the hapless driver whose new SUV is carjacked and he simply gets out and lets the gunman take his car and commit some crime.
Can you envision the public outrage if the DA singled them out for their complicity in the crime? How would the media respond if the judge handed out harsh sentences for their part in these crimes?
Well, that’s exactly what is happening to victims of human trafficking in this country, and throughout much of the world. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month and I wanted to use my blog this month to highlight this major problem confronting trafficked victims.
Today, right now, millions of people are trapped in slavery are over the world, more than at any time in human history. This slavery takes various forms—prostitution, drug mule, illegal forced laborer, sex slave. The victims of human trafficking endure unbelievable hardships and inhuman cruelty. In addition to threats and intimidations to themselves and their loved ones, they are forced to survive physical beatings, being chained and starved, and often repeated rapes.
Mostly girls and women, but also boys, are manipulated, coerced, abducted and sold into the world of human trafficking every day. Most of these victims come from other countries, but even in America, one teenage girl is sucked into the ugly vortex of human trafficking every ninety minutes.
To drive that point home, by the time you eat dinner and do the dishes tonight, a lost and struggling adolescent girl, lonely and desperate for any connection, standing on a nondescript street corner or frequenting some chat room on the internet, will be tricked or lied to or misled or cajoled and, before she knows is, she will become another statistic, another human trafficking victim. She’ll become one of 5000 females trafficked in the US this year.
Most times these heinous acts, these trafficking crimes slide under the radar, often unreported and, even when reported become low priority for many law enforcement agencies. In many states, human trafficking is not even a felony. Some argue this is because these victims of human trafficking often come from the lowest rungs of society, or are illegal immigrants from other countries. Others argue human trafficking victims really are complicit in their plight.
After all, the girl ran away from home or did drugs, or the young mother paid a coyote to sneak her and her family across the border illegally. So county sheriffs and city chiefs seldom see these victims as a priority. They have far more pressing issues to address.
However, when the law does get involved, it often does not end well for human trafficking victims. The roles trafficked victims play—under the cruel manipulation of their handlers—often land them in the enforcement sights of all levels of authority. They are often the tip of a huge illegal iceberg, sometimes the only visible part of some vast criminal network. Make no mistake, this is big business. A recent estimate calculated that a prostitute can earn for her pimp more than $250.000 a year. Consider what a stable of captured women could bring in!
These human trafficked victims often get caught up in law enforcement actions. Those in the sex trade will be trapped in a raid, those forced into service as drug mules for be captured in possession with the illicit drugs or the illegal forced laborer will be arrested for an illegal immigration offense. Many times law enforcement authorities will charge, prosecute and imprison these victims—whose participation was manipulated, coerced or worse—rather than going after the “bigger fish,” who are much harder to catch. It makes good headlines to show local police “cleaning up the streets.” In the end, these victims are often victimized twice, first by the trafficker, then by those in law enforcement, who often arrest and imprison instead of recognizing their plight and helping them escape the life.
What can be done, or more importantly, what can you do?
First and foremost, you can become informed.
When I wrote Crimson at Cape May, the second installment in the Haunted Shores Mysteries trilogy, I was amazed how much I did not know about human trafficking. Since I made this issue central to the mystery in the novel, I conducted a considerable amount of research on human trafficking.
If you read the novel, you will receive an introduction to the world of human trafficking, as well as find an enjoyable cold case murder mystery with just the right touch of who-hoo. You can find more details on the novel here. http://www.authorrandyoverbeck.com
Second, you can help those around you—family, friends, business colleagues and acquaintances—about become aware of the horrors of human trafficking. The greatest danger today continues to be so few people are aware of the issue of slavery and human trafficking. Unless a celebrity is involved, it seldom garners media or social media attention. So the problem exists below most people’s radar. You can help change that.
Third, you can learn more about how to help at any of the many sites dedicated to fighting this human scourge. Here are a few links to get you started:
Perhaps, most important, don’t forget these unfortunate victims. In a few days, January will pass and so will the month’s attention on human trafficking. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.