Sex, which should be an act of love between a man and woman, has an entirely different meaning from a business standpoint. For most, the word “prostitution” comes to mind when sex and business are associated together. However, one of the largest issues when it comes to illegal sexual activity is the crime of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking involves using force or coercion to make an adult or minor engage in commercial sex acts in exchange for money, food, shelter, drugs or possessions. Sex traffickers force an individual to provide sexual acts, which can include escort services, sex in illicit massage storefronts, outdoor solicitation, pornography, personal sexual servitude, interactive cybersex acts or as companionship at bars and clubs (Polaris). With an estimated 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide, the United States surpasses other countries with the number of consumers of sex trafficking averaging 400,000 per year according to the Global Slavery Index (Reuters, 2019). As an industry that is illegal and immoral, the benefits from the business yields a revenue stream of $100 billion per year at the expense of the thousands of victims forced to perform (Time, 2014). As a response to the sex trafficking concerns in the U.S., the government is passing more legislation for the various kinds of trafficking that exist and specific demographics that are affected by it. Several advocacy programs and non-profit organizations also reach out in response, with resources for victims and to drive awareness to the problem.
Who It Affects and How It Works
Preying on the vulnerable and the desperate, sex traffickers often target those who are in seemingly hopeless situations. They often prey on individuals who have suffered from previous kinds of abuse, are impoverished and/or have a low level of education. The majority of victims are female adults, children from foster homes and runaways. Sex traffickers seek out those who they can coerce and force into sex. Different from prostitution, which is at the will of the party involved, these individuals are involuntarily used for sex. Sex traffickers use women, men and children as slaves, forcing them to perform sexual services for clients. Often the victims are solicited from social circles or within the neighborhood and taken to hotels or massage salons where they are used (Reuters, 2019). Trafficking services are less likely to be traced because most transactions are done by cash. Of those who are caught, 90% of victims are arrested for selling sex, while less than 10% of buyers are arrested (USIAHT, 2020). Online advertisements have also played a role in sex trafficking, advertising online sex opportunities to vulnerable people as a way for them to escape from their current situation.
As a global issue, countries throughout the world, including the United States, have established laws against trafficking, which is considered a form of slavery. The federal government has increased efforts to prevent sex trafficking by passing legislation that addresses various sectors of sex trafficking. In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA) was passed to define human trafficking victims as a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. It protects undocumented immigrants who are victims of severe trafficking and violence and also provides protection specifically for those under the age of 18. Within the last 10 years, there has been an increase in legislation as the sex trafficking industry has grown. The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 was passed to decrease trafficking among children in the foster care system and to assist locating runaways. Statistics show that once children are on the street, they are solicited for sex within 72 hours (Human Trafficking Advocacy, 2020). This Act helps locate children and protect them from the dangers of becoming involved in sex trafficking. The following year, in 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) of 2015 was introduced to support victim assistance, provide rehabilitation services, serve fines to offenders, other anti-sex trafficking efforts and an increase in liability for buyers of commercial sex. In 2018, in response to online sex trafficking, President Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) to combat online sex services (NY Post, 2018). Websites such as Craigslist and other webpages facilitating sex trafficking by listing victims to be bought and sold are now subjected to liability with tighter restrictions in effect (The Verge, 2018). This bill helps curtail Internet hubs that allow for posting or advertising illegal sexual services and sharing sexual content. The government has increased measures to lessen trafficking, but catching trafficking can be complicated as it is hard to trace those involved. However, this increase in legislation brings hope to victims who have been trafficked.
In addition to legislation, several nonprofit organizations are resources for women and children who are survivors of sex trafficking. They help victims recover from the psychological and physical trauma of slavery and abuse. Advocacy groups help victims learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and bring awareness of the problem to the community. By receiving education as well as counseling, survivors are able to face what they lived through and find healing from what they experienced.
Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Group. (2020). Working To Make a Difference. Retrieved from http://www.humantraffickingadvocacy.org
NY Post. Fonrouge, G. (2018, April 11). Trump signs law against online sex trafficking. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2018/04/11/trump-signs-law-against-online-sex-trafficking
Polaris. The Typology of Modern Slavery: Defining Sex and Labor Trafficking in the United States. [PDF File]. Retrieved from http://www.heatwatch.org/human_trafficking/sex_trafficking#2
Reuters. (2019, December 9). Top hotels sued for ‘industry-wide failures’ to prevent U.S. sex trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trafficking-hotels-usa-idUSKBN1YE074
Time. Luscome, E. (2014, May 20). Inside the Scarily Lucrative Business Model of Human Trafficking. Retrieved from https://time.com/105360/inside-the-scarily-lucrative-business-model-of-human-trafficking
The Verge. Robertson, A. (2018, April 11). Trump signs anti-trafficking law that weakens online free speech protections. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/11/17223720/trump-signs-fosta-sesta-sex-trafficking-section-230-law
U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. (2020). It’s Time to Eliminate Demand. Retrieved from https://usiaht.org
Written for One Bread Foundation, Inc., June 2020
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