These phrases seem to be everywhere in our life today – this is a GOOD thing. But what do these terms actually mean and what do they look like in reality? In this first of a four-part series, Sabrina & Kelly will define the problem and inform the discussion. In the forthcoming parts two and three of this series, we will dive deep into these topics sharing “their” stories; the stories of those we fight for every day. Then we will focus the final part of the series on what you can do right now to help trafficking victims trapped in modern-day slavery and survivors as they struggle to thrive in freedom.
First, by legal terminology, trafficking and smuggling are two different crimes. Trafficking is a crime against a person. Whereas, smuggling is a crime against a nation/country. Smuggling often develops into trafficking, as seen especially clearly when looking at the routes through Africa to the Mediterranean coast and across into Greece and Italy. For example, many of the child sex trafficking victims we see rescued in Italy are from Nigeria and started out as being willingly smuggled. Then their nightmare begins as they become child sex trafficking victims.
Second, sex trafficking can occur anywhere and does not have to involve movement, travel, or money. Legally, to be trafficked as a child, there only needs to be compensation exchanged for an act. This means that the man selling or trading his infant daughter to buyers in person and/or online for any kind of compensation from his own home is, by definition, trafficking the child for sex. For an adult to be trafficked, there must be either force, fraud, or coercion as well as some form of compensation. Non-monetary examples of compensation often include trading sex acts (child / adult) for rent and/or drugs. In the next parts of this series, we will focus further on the legal aspect in America and what it looks like through the lens of an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting these cases.
The details about what happens to a child that is being trafficked are not something we will discuss here simply because, for many, it’s too horrific to read and we’ve found many people stop reading because the thought of a young toddler being sexually and physically tortured by a depraved buyer (in person or online) is too difficult to comprehend. Most times, the child’s traffickers are family or close family friends. More often than not, we see children who have ran away commonly and quickly become vulnerable to traffickers. Before they know it, the manipulation and guilt become so overwhelming they feel they can no longer return to any sense of home.
Material depicting the sexual abuse of children is no longer called “child pornography” in the counter human trafficking field. By referring to it as such, there is an implied notion of consent which is impossible when involving a child. This material is CSEM or child sexual exploitation material. When a child is sexually abused for any kind of compensation, it becomes trafficking. Prior to this, it is child sexual abuse and clearly involves pedophilia. However, it is not trafficking until there is a compensation (of any kind) involved. Non-monetary examples of this often include trading sex acts with a child for rent and/or drugs.
OSEC occurs when traffickers live-stream the sexual abuse of children and buyers pay (or offer gifts) to watch and direct the abuse from another physically separate location. Typically the trafficked child is in another country and the buyers tend to be North American, European, and Australian. While many assume this is occurring on the “dark web” (TOR), it is most often found on the open web in peer-to-peer (P2P) encrypted conversations invisible to the moderators of the platform being used. Many of the initial link ups occur in open forums and immediately jump to encrypted P2P sharing.
Child sex trafficking is more common than many want to know or admit – it’s happening in your city, it’s happening in your state – it’s not just happening “over there” or hidden in some twisted dark web. It’s right here! It’s everywhere. We will dive further into the international problem of child sex trafficking and the “dark web” in the second and third parts of this series. Our hope is that what you read here will motivate you to keep reading, to get involved, and to open your eyes to the everyday reality that is child sex trafficking.
How can an adult be trafficked for sex? Why can’t she just walk away? She must have made some bad choices. She must like doing this for the money.
Victim blaming is the most common obstacle in our fight against the trafficking of adult women for sex. Ask yourself: What woman (or man) ever said as a child: When I grow up, I want to be a prostitute?
There are many paths that lead to an adult being trafficked, but none make the resulting exploitation acceptable (or legal). There is an overwhelming demand for commercial (paid) sex. If this demand did not exist, there would be no trafficking of women because there would be no monetary gain for traffickers. Legally, to be trafficked, there must be the involvement of force, fraud, OR coercion.
Trafficking does not have to involve transportation, physical chains, or kidnapping and often does not. In part two of this series, we will explore stories of survivors from “everyday” American towns, big cities (Washington DC, London, Amsterdam), and international refugee camps.
Legalized prostitution: Many ask, why not legalize the sale of sex for consenting adults? We will address this at length in part three of this series. Germany’s FKK clubs are a fantastic example of why this model does not work and how it only furthers and expands the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable women and minors. There are other more successful models (Sweden) that decriminalize prostitution but continue to prosecute buyers and traffickers.
Labor trafficking is in the most literal sense: modern-day slavery. To constitute labor trafficking, there must be elements of force, fraud, and coercion. Typically this means withholding identification documents and/or confiscating wages. We often associate labor trafficking as an overseas problem – which it is. However, it also occurs in America. In part two of this series, we’ll share a local (Harrisonburg, VA) case as well as sharing stories of adults enslaved on fishing boats (“ghost ships”) in Thailand sourcing American stores’ supply chains, stories from children enslaved on Lake Volta in Ghana, and from children forced to beg on the streets of Western Europe.
Many companies and organizations are recognizing the need to understand where their goods are resourced and to ensure it is not occurring with the use of slave labor and trafficked victims. Supply chain transparency is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal as consumers. Many companies are working hard to ensure their goods are sourced from countries and businesses that engage in fair trade practices.
At New Creation we work incredibly hard to create a market for fair trade and survivor-made goods. Shopping and supporting us, and other fair trade shops, is a direct way to engage actively in the anti-trafficking movement. Currently, we are partnered with over 60 artisan groups around the world to ensure those individuals are empowered and employed, not preyed upon and exploited.