Mona and I are two university graduates who have dedicated the next year to researching human trafficking in the U.S. sex trade. With our prepared research, a mini-SUV and the open doors of family and friends ahead we will set off on an adventure through the United States, unlike anything we could have imagined when the idea of this project first began. This first post is an introduction to what sex trafficking is; in the following posts we will explain to you how we plan to approach the issue through our research project.
Influenced by our sociological, humanitarian and international backgrounds Mona and I realized that we wanted to bring our understanding of global sex trafficking closer to home…to our own streets in the U.S. Mona, a Jordanian who spent her high school and college life in Indiana, and I, a native Californian, have studied and traveled in various regions around the world and have a strong understanding of how people’s views of what are the ‘real humanitarian issues’ can be so drastically different. We realized that what people needed was to understand that the terrible problem of sex trafficking happening ‘over there’ in Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, etc. is not only ‘over there’. Wherever you may be located around the U.S., or even elsewhere in the world, these issues are in your backyard. This is what we are hoping to help people understand. If you are already aware of this, then you are a few steps ahead in understanding what our project is about. In that case, you can help to spread the word! As we update our blog along the road we hope that you will update your family and friends on what and where the problems of sex trafficking can be found and what can be done to prevent it.
For those of you who are unaware of the prominence of sex trafficking, I hope that this brief explanation gives you a better understanding of how great the issue is:
Human Trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons (TIP), is a modern-day form of slavery. It is a crime under federal and international law. It is also a crime in the majority of U.S. states, discounting Wyoming and West Virginia, which have not yet passed anti-human trafficking legislation.
Sex trafficking, a form of human trafficking, is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. In other words, when 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. Domestic sex trafficking involves U.S. citizens who are forced to perform sex acts entirely within the borders of the United States.
Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and some U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female (ed.gov). The average age for sex trafficking in the U.S. is 12-14 years old, and there have been cases of girls as young as 9. It is estimated that over 100,000 children are at risk to be trafficked into the U.S. sex trade each year. Some estimates put the amount of children trafficked into the U.S. sex trade between 11,500 and 14,000 annually (The Polaris Project). Unfortunately, due to the underground nature of sex work in the U.S., getting accurate numbers of trafficked individuals is incredibly difficult, so all we can say is that the number would likely be much higher if we had the necessary knowledge and resources.
Something that has come to the attention of organizations throughout the U.S. is how well the media markets sex work through the glorification of terms like ‘pimps’ and ‘hos’. Read the article below for a personal story from a trafficked victim to gain a better understanding of what sex trafficking in the U.S. looks like.
In the posts to come Mona and I will describe our project, update you on where we are, what we have uncovered about human trafficking in the U.S. sex trade and we will fill you in on what you can do to help in our efforts to raise awareness and work to prevent sex trafficking in the U.S.