World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
The United Nations has marked July 30 as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. It is one day each year for the entire world to spread awareness of this tragic violation of human rights. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person, for the purpose of exploitation. Such exploitation may refer to prostitution or other commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, practices similar to slavery, or the removal of organs.
Traffickers target people of all ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographical locations. Nearly every country in the world is affected by human trafficking. It is estimated that there are between 20 million and 40 million victims of human trafficking across the globe today, with at least 71% of those victims being women and girls. Estimates suggest that about 50,000 people are trafficked through the United States each year. Approximately 374 women and girls are sexually exploited each month in Georgia alone, with Atlanta showing the highest numbers of trafficked female Hispanics in the nation.
Human trafficking is a problem that has been shown to overlap with domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The pattern of behaviors that both abusers and traffickers use to gain control over their victims is very similar. Victims in both cases may be subjected to overbearing control, emotional manipulation, and physical violence. Both abusers and traffickers will isolate their victims, attempt to re-define their sense of reality, and reinforce the idea that there is no where to turn for help or escape. Victims are frequently denied access to any financial resources necessary for escape. Both abusers and traffickers may even forcibly impregnate victims, or claim their existing children as their own, so that the threat of violence or separation can be used as an additional tool to force the victim into compliance.
Situations that initially appear to be domestic violence may mask a human trafficking situation. It is not uncommon for the trafficker to be the husband, boyfriend, or romantic partner of the victim. In some instances, the marriage or intimate relationship may be a fraud instigated by the trafficker. Particularly in cases of sexual exploitation, victims are lured into marriages or romantic relationships with an individual who intends to exploit them for personal gain. But even a bona fide marriage or relationship can devolve into a situation of human trafficking.
When we recognize the intersection of domestic violence and human trafficking, we can begin to recognize how complex patterns of abusive behavior create environments that perpetuate violence. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime oversees the Blue Heart Campaign the end human trafficking. The blue heart is an international symbol representing the sadness of those who are trafficked, and the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings. The campaign allows people to raise awareness of this issue and to show solidarity with victims by wearing the blue heart logo. Donations to this particular UN campaign provide assistance and protection to trafficking victims world-wide.
To report any suspicions of human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation in the United States, contact The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.