Humans for sale: The customers

This photo is a photo illustration, and is not the person portrayed in the story. Human trafficking is the second largest crime industry in the world. It is estimated that around 27 million people are trafficked globally.

Danielle Ferguson

An economy will crumble without customers. A worldwide business needs diversely located, paying consumers in order to thrive.

Human trafficking is a global crime business with local branches. Trafficking occurs when a person is forced to work in the sex trade or provide any kind of labor under conditions of force, fraud or coercion.

According to U.S. State Department data, there are about 27 million people being trafficked worldwide. Of that 27 million, it is estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 are transported across boundaries.

From those 600,000 to 800,000 people, about 17,000 are transferred in and out of the U.S. from other countries.

Roughly 25 percent of the world’s sex tourists are Americans.

Advice from people who have dedicated their lives to ending human trafficking on how to be aware of trafficking and how to reduce American contribution to the crime follows:

  • “For college, middle and high school students: Be aware of what you’re getting into when you have any of your social media open…and people approaching you that you don’t know,” – Teresa Downing, executive director of Network Against Human Trafficking.
  • “Pornography is one of the significant ways youth are trafficked in America. If you go online, using pornography or [searching for] an erotic massage parlor, there’s no guarantee that you’re not being serviced by a trafficking victim. [Mainly men] need to be aware that their consumption of sex could involve the exploitation of trafficking victims,” -Downing.
  • “When demand declines, supply does too. Reduce demand. Don’t pay for sex. Period. That’s the answer,” – Roxann Ryan, attorney for Iowa Department of Public Safety.
  • “How do we end demand? It starts with changing the mindset. In our nation, the commercial sex industry is so glamorized. Pimping is glamorized. It’s in song lyrics on the radio, images on television and magazines. That’s what all the kids are seeing. [The whole industry] is glamourized,” – Cathy O’Keefe, executive director of Braking Traffik.
  • “Spread awareness. Braking Traffik goes around giving presentations to colleges, businesses, churches etc. to give an overview on human trafficking. A lot of people in our audiences have very little knowledge of what human trafficking is,” – O’Keefe.
  • “Anything that looks odd, unusual or that you just don’t feel right about is probably a good indicator that something is wrong. [When dealing with trafficked laborers], report if something is really unsafe in your workplace,” – Gail Sheridan-Lucht, Iowa Division of Labor Services.
  • “If you notice something funny going on in your work, neighborhood or where you volunteer, call the police. Police react to public demand, so public needs to demand it,” – Maggie Tinsman, chair of Braking Traffik.
  • “The internet and social media are prime bait for traffickers. The more information young women put on the internet, the more vulnerable they become,” – Tinsman.
  • “The number one thing for parents is staying aware of what your children are doing online. Take a little time to stay engaged with them to talk about this issue,” – Michael Ferjak, senior criminal investigator with Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
  • “If you see something [suspicious], say something. Tell law enforcement. The worst that can happen is you were wrong. I’d much rather you be wrong than have us miss another victim,” – Ferjak.

Human trafficking is a business. It depends on supply and demand. If demand declines, the supply does as well. If the demand for commercial sexual services and unfair labor practices declines, the victims who supply them will not need to be in supply.

Any suspicion of human trafficking should be reported to local law enforcement or Polaris Project, the national hotline for human trafficking.