Lawson: Combat human traffickng with education

Angelica Lawson

Men, women and children are forcefully placed in the human trafficking industry every day. From Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015, 5,544 cases of human trafficking were reported in the United States, according to Polaris.

Human trafficking is “trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs” according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

This epidemic plaguing the world is no stranger to the borders of the United States. While the United States is not on of the top-five countries that is affected by human trafficking, one case is too many. Iowa has already witnessed 36 cases this year, according to the Trafficking Resource Center. Data from 2007-2015 labels Iowa as moderate for the number of calls received, and high for the number of confirmed cases.

TakePart conducted a survey in 2013 and compiled a list of the top seven states that have major offenses when it comes to human trafficking. The states are North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire and South Dakota. Iowa thankfully did not make this list, but it is not far from the majority of the states that topped the list.

Residents of Iowa and the United States have the opportunity to influence an end to these crimes. The problem is that Iowa citizens do not want to believe trafficking is happening within their borders.

We can start ending trafficking in the United States through education and start influencing the end of this unfortunate industry.

The first step is learning how to identify a trafficking victim. Several categories can help you identify trafficking victims: they are not free to come and go as they wish; they are under 18 and are providing commercial sex acts; they are in the commercial sex industry and have a pimp or manager; they are unpaid, paid very little or paid only through tips; and they work excessively long and/or work unusual hours.

Some other warning signs, according to the Polaris Project, include poor mental health or abnormal behavior such as fear, anxiety, depression or nervousness. Victims may also exhibit unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement, avoid eye contact, have poor physical health and lack of control of their life. 

Education of the issue would allow people to be better equipped in ways to help trafficking victims escape their capture. It is important for the public to know victims may have experienced varying degrees of abuse and could respond to help in different ways. The stress of being forced to live those lifestyles can affect everyone in different ways.

Education on this horrendous industry and understanding past statistics apply to real people will help increase awareness of human trafficking. We need more awareness of these crimes; they are happening every day, and if you can stop just one or give a person the tools to help someone else, we can start the breakdown of human trafficking.