Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Shattering Dignity Through Trafficking

            Human Trafficking is the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Human trafficking specifically targets the dignity of both men and women involved and makes the victims feel as though they are not worthy of respect and basic human rights after all they have been put through. The issue is that human trafficking is not only a global problem but it is also very difficult to locate and track because of its hidden manifestations. Due to the nature of human trafficking and its illicit activity, the results and unsubstantiated claims of its whereabouts make the information used to expose it very unreliable at times. The cases of human trafficking can vary widely, from cases of forced labor, to sexual exploitation, to commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism, to even trafficking for tissue, cells, and organs, among much more. Out of all forms of human trafficking, one consistent aspect seems to be the abuse of the inherent vulnerability of victims.
            It can be hard to track down and infiltrate the places that hold human trafficking because many times, by the time the police know the whereabouts of the facility, the pimps have already moved the victims to another location. Trafficking victims often have contact with local law enforcement authorities, but because local law enforcement agents lack sufficient training, they fail to notice the victims or take appropriate action to bring them to safety. The toll that it takes on the victims is absolutely unimaginable. Human trafficking is an injustice that I care genuinely and profoundly about because of how closely I have worked in the past years with women who were the victims of it. I volunteer with an organization known as The Samaritan Women, which is a rehab facility for women who have been the victims of human trafficking. The organization works to get these women back up on their feet and build them into strong and independent ladies after their dignity has been shattered by their worst nightmares. Hearing from dozens of testimonies by these women, it is truly a heinous crime one could not even dare to describe. One woman I spoke with was locked in a closet – naked- for almost ten years and never saw daylight. Not only was her dignity shattered, but also her ability to interact with almost anyone was traumatizing for her after those years. Women do not know what to do with themselves after they have been through these events, so for many of them, it is easier for stay in their situations than to even try and get help.
            “Demand reduction” strategies have been implemented by government and law enforcement to focus on actions that will reduce sex buying. Localities try demand reduction after attempts to reduce prostitution have failed, or in response to community calls to do something. For example, web-based fake profiles, where sex buyers are arrested after making contact with a decoy “prostitute” who is actually a police officer. Another example of brothel-based reverse stings, where police close a brothel, make it look like it is still open, and then arrest sex buyers and pimps who arrive. But, other remedies must be implemented as well for the victims to even feel 1% of justice. Trafficking victims are in need of numerous services, from housing to medical and legal attention. Unlike domestic violence victims who run from one perpetrator, trafficking victims may be running from a whole network of organized crime. Overall, they appear to be less stable, have less knowledge about the criminal justice system, are more isolated, and have more extreme trauma and mental health needs than most domestic violence victims.
            So what can be done ultimately for these victims? Well, there are several options. One of these is known as The Samaritan Women, a program that I personally volunteer with. The Samaritan Women is a national Christian organization providing restorative care to survivors, and bringing about an end to domestic human trafficking through awareness, prevention, and advocacy. It is geared completely towards the victims of human trafficking, and helps them in any way possible through five transitional, restorative, and independent phases. Their remedies include providing them housing at the rehabilitation center, having them do activities such as planting and house-chores to get their minds off of their past traumatic events and stabilize them, and even urging them to pick up habits of personal expression such as cooking and reading so they can start building their lives once again. But even better, the program helps the women enroll in classes that actually allow them to ultimately earn a degree, whether a Bachelor or Masters, and help them find jobs – once they are stable, so that they are becoming prepared to be independent, accountable, and connected in a new community.
Other options include becoming aware and simply looking up programs that help with human trafficking. For instance, the Blue Heart Campaign which works to raise awareness of the plight of victims and build political support to fight the criminals behind trafficking while the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking does fundraising to assist grass-roots organizations working with survivors or this crime. Your responsibility can go so far as pledging to not purchase goods and services that could be linked directly or indirectly with sexual exploitation. By becoming aware, involved, supportive, and responsible, we can help these women obtain the justice they deserve – their own human dignity.


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