I had no idea what human trafficking was until I came to Kent. My freshman year, I was shown the documentary “Nefarious” that completely broke my heart for the people who have fallen into the shadows of society as victims of human trafficking. I found my passion in life and began getting involved on campus to learn more about this topic.
I am now vice president of International Justice Mission at Kent. We are focused on raising awareness about and advocating against human trafficking. I have been to Washington, D.C., to visit International Justice Mission, the global nonprofit, and learned so much about human trafficking around the world. I recently traveled to Columbus with Kent State’s OEECE program for a human trafficking immersion trip that really opened my eyes to the issues of gentrification, poverty and human trafficking. We got to hear from a former trafficker and victims of trafficking, all of whom are now activists. This impactful weekend experience served to solidify my desire to pursue this as a career.
My advice to every college student is to take every opportunity to get involved with what you are most passionate about. Find what starts a fire inside of you, and chase after it. During college, you have ample opportunities and resources available for hands-on experience in many different areas. You will come to realize that you can turn that passion into your future career.
The Columbus Human Trafficking Urban Plunge was a wonderful experience for me that focused on learning about human trafficking and how I can get involved with the movement to end it. This was a big step in learning more about how I can spend my whole life doing exactly what I am passionate about. I am on a mission to abolish human trafficking in our lifetime. However, as my knowledge of this issue increases, I have noticed that the biggest problem is how many people are unaware that this happens in our world today. Here are the top five myths human trafficking that everyone should know:
1. U.S. citizens cannot be trafficked. This only happens in other countries.
Many people are unaware of the fact that human trafficking, although illegal everywhere, exists in every country. The belief that people trafficked in America are all smuggled from other countries is false. Over 100,000 American children are trapped in the sex trade alone. This manifests in every state, city and most likely in your own community.
2. The only form of trafficking is sex trafficking. Slavery no longer exists.
Forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage and involuntary servitude among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, sex trafficking and prostitution, children exploited for commercial sex and child sex tourism are all major forms of trafficking in persons, or slavery, that exist today. All involve the exploitation of people and happen within hotels, massage parlors, domestic service, agriculture, restaurants and sweatshops.
3. Only women are trafficked or prostituted. All the women that are trafficked are adults and chose this life. They could have left at any time.
Men, women and children are all susceptible to trafficking. Minors are protected by law as victims of human trafficking without proof of coercion. However, studies show adult individuals who are involved were trafficked from young ages, with an average age of around 11-13. They are forced or coerced through acts of love, violence, threats and loss of possession of their identification documents.
Victims come from all walks of life. Typically, they have disadvantages that make them more susceptible, including poverty, disabilities, backgrounds of sexual abuse and violence, runaways or growing up in foster homes. However, anyone can become a victim, regardless of their demographics.
Physical and psychological wounds keep the victim from speaking out or trying to leave. Law enforcement has often made it worse for victims through victim blaming and by labeling them as criminals, which can cause victims to turn away from law enforcement, viewing them as the enemy. This also causes the victims to have records of arrests and charges that keep them trapped.
4. Trafficking looks like a movie scene where girls are kidnapped from the streets, never to be seen again.
This can be true in some cases, and people should be very aware of this. However, more often than not, the victim is slowly lured into a trap. In many cases, traffickers are someone close to the victim, including parents and other relatives, neighbors and significant others. There may be a “boyfriend” promising a young girl love and protection, then turning around and telling the girl that she now owes him and this is her only option. With a mix of violence and love, the girls are psychologically conditioned in a way that keeps them from ever leaving or seeking help. Feeling responsible or guilty for the situation and blaming themselves adds to their resistance to leave. Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim becomes attached to their abuser, is another cause of victims returning to this terrible situation, because it is familiar to them. But what is Stockholm Syndrome?
Psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg of the National Institute of Mental Health defines it: “First, people would experience something terrifying that just comes at them out of the blue. They are certain they are going to die. Then they experience a type of infantilisation – where, like a child, they are unable to eat, speak or go to the toilet without permission. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live.”
5. People who are involved in prostitution are criminals.
There is a stigma that surrounds prostitution, claiming that people chose this life because they’re “whores” who are addicted to sex or drugs. They’re often coerced into living this life and may turn to drugs or alcohol. Many police officers consider them criminals. They tend to let the person purchasing sex go free and arrest the prostitutes. In reality, many of these people are not criminals, they’re victims. And even if they are arrested, they usually end up going right back as soon they are released.
by Delaney Cordova