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Modern slavery in your backyard | Race-Talk | 32

Modern slavery in your backyard

Filed under: Featured,Slavery/Human Trafficking |


According to Free the Slaves Organization, there are currently 27 million people who are modern slaves.  Every year there are 17,500 people trafficked into the United States from other countries.  Additionally, while eighty percent of the transnational victims are women and girls, a majority of the people (up to fifty percent) are minors (US Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2008).  Those numbers are just from what has been documented.   The experts suggest that these numbers are conservative.

Defining Human Trafficking

Under United States and international law, commercially sexually exploited children found in the sex trade are considered to be victims of trafficking, even if no force or coercion is present. Labor trafficking occurs in diverse contexts that encompass all forms of labor or services and may also involve sexual coercion.  Common places where forced labor has been found in the United States include domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations, to more large-scale operations such as farms, industries, and factories.

Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition define two of the major trafficking types.  Labor Trafficking is but is not limited to include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farm-workers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions with little to no pay.    Labor traffickers will typically use violence, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion to force women, men and children to work against their will in many different industries in countries all over the world.  Certain labor brokers that supply labor to multinational corporations have also been identified as an emerging type of labor traffickers.  More well known labor traffickers are involved with mines and plantations.

The factors identified by the US Trafficking Persons Report that make women, men and children vulnerable labor trafficking are: high unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, and the cultural acceptance of the practice.  Another note with Labor Trafficking is debt bondage.  Debt bondage is illegal in the United States but the trafficking victims in this case must reimburse the traffickers for travel, clothes, room and board and other personal item.  However, the amount agreed to be repaid is set by the people who are the traffickers.

Sex trafficking includes commercial sexual exploitation of children (also abbreviated as CSEC), as well as every instance where an adult is in the sex trade as the result of force, fraud, or coercion.  Sex trafficking occurs within a range of venues in the broader sex industry, commonly found and practiced in street prostitution, online escort services/mail order brides, residential brothels, and brothels disguised as legitimate massage parlors.

Slavery in the World

Human trafficking is the second largest illegal enterprise in the world, followed by illegal drug sales.  Victims of human trafficking in the United States include United States citizens or foreign born people, adults and minors, and men and women.  Foreign-born victims in the U.S. may be either documented or undocumented.  According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, Human Trafficking is a $9 billion industry and is the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise this century.  The current economic crisis is also adding to the problem of trafficking. Traffickers, who perceive human beings as commodities to be bought and sold, take advantage of lack of resources of those living in impoverished parts of the world. Of all the states in the United States, California is one of the top destinations for trafficking victims from Mexico, Latin America (especially Venezuela) and Asia. The Eastern States have more victims who come from Europe and Africa (www.castla.org).

In the US and Ohio (What does it look like?)

Ernie Allen who is the executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that that at least 100,000 are abused into child prostitution.  The average age of a person being introduced into prostitution is 12-14.  Minors who are associated with sex trafficking typically have several shared factors.  Factors include poverty; using prostitution by runaway children to provide for subsistence needs; membership in a gang; recruitment by organized crime units; a prior history of child abuse and sexual assault: and the presence/demand because of the pre-existing prostitution markets (Estes and Weiner, (2001).

There is a conservative estimate that 6,316 Ohioans are at risk of being trafficked and at least 1,861 are being trafficked currently in Ohio.  This does not take into account domestic adults who are victims of sex trafficking.  For example, in 2007/2008, Central Ohio law enforcement filed 3,575 prostitution charges.  And the Polaris Project reports that the state of Ohio ranks 7th in the number of calls placed to the National hotline between 12/2007 and 6/2009.  Almost 2000 people are trafficked in Ohio on any given day.  Tim Derickson, who served as a state representative for Ohio said in an open editorial column that Toledo was the number one teen prostitution location in America which he quipped from a federal investigator.  Toledo ranks fourth in the nation behind Miami, Florida, Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas for the number of arrests, investigations and rescues of domestic minor trafficking victims.

What Can You Do?

There are a series of “red flags” that many non-profits and government organizations have developed to raise awareness:

  • Evidence of being controlled
  • Bruises and/or fear of speaking for themselves
  • Evidence of inability to move or leave a job
  • Signs of trauma
  • Untreated illness and infections
  • No passport or identifying documentation
  • Lives with co-worker or employer

These are not the only signs but it is the collapsing of multiple signs together that should make an informed citizen pause on something they are observing.  There are a host of organizations by state, nation and abroad that focus on human trafficking and modern slavery.  The selling or exploitation of men, women and children for commercial sex or labor is slavery.

This is not just a problem that is happening in Russia, Asia, South America, and Africa; this is occurring in the United States at an alarming rate and is definitely present locally in Ohio.  The very fact that nations in 2011 still have to place laws into action that have to do with slavery is not just problematic it is against human rights.  This is a threat against freedom, it increases global health risk, and it fuels organized crime.  Modern slavery is a threat to freedom everywhere.  Education about the issue is instrumental to decelerating the rate at which commercial sex and labor is being used to perpetuate human trafficking.


Sources and Citations

Estes, R. & Weiner, N. A. (2001). Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the US, Canada, Mexico.

US Department of State Human Trafficking in Persons Report, 2008

Fact Sheet: Distinctions Between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking 2006 http://www.state.gov/m/ds/hstcenter/90434.htm