Imagine someone coming into your life, appearing to look normal, genuine and trustworthy. What if this person guarantees you a better lifestyle, but instead you become enslaved into human trafficking? Human Trafficking is when a person abducts you from your normal lifestyle or situation and most likely use you for some type of benefit. Human Trafficking or modern-day slavery according to the Department of Homeland Security has been defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. There is a popular myth that human trafficking typically involves the seizure of only women; however, every year millions of men, women and children are trafficked worldwide-Including the United States. Human Trafficking does not discriminate or show any predispositions. It can happen to anyone, in any community regardless of age, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers have been known to use violence, manipulation, false-promises, money and even romantic relationships to control their “prey”. Human trafficking has been labeled as one of the most widespread human rights issues of today. Human trafficking can be segmented into two categories; Sex trafficking and Labor trafficking.
Sex trafficking is human trafficking for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery. Victims are forced to become dependent on the trafficker and eventually used by the trafficker to provide sexual favors. Sexual crimes can be broken down into three areas: acquisition, transportation and exploitation. Sexual trafficking is one of the largest business operations in the world. Human trafficking and sex trafficking are often used as synonyms. However, non-sexual human trafficking may be more prevalent than sexual exploited human trafficking. Sex trafficking exploitation receives a lot more attention from organizations and advocates compared to non-sexual trafficking due to the publics outrage that sexual trafficking conjures.
Sex trafficking has a negative impact on the victim, communities and families. Perpetuators typically seem to target those who are poor, vulnerable, living in unsafe environments or searching for a better life. In September of 2017 Rafeal Romo a writer at CNN did a report on Karla Jacinto. Karla was only 12 years old when she was lured from her poverty-stricken home--Mexico.
Jacinto recapped her horror story stating the she survived human trafficking but estimated that she was raped 43,200 times. At the early age of five Karla says that she was abused for as long as she can remember and felt rejected from her mother. Karla stated that “I came from a dysfunctional family. I was sexually abused and mistreated from the age of 5 by a relative.” One day as Karla was waiting for friends at a nearby subway in Mexico City a little boy selling sweets approached her, gave her a piece of candy as a gift from someone.
Karla later found herself in close contact with a man that was clearly older than her. He presented himself to be very polite and mentioned that he was a used car salesman. Although Karla was nervous she became more comfortable when the man started to tell her that he was also abused as a boy. Karla then saw him as an affectionate gentleman and decided to exchange numbers. A week later the older man called Karla and invited her to take a trip to Puebla which was close by. He picked her up in a stunning bright red Firebird Trans Am. Karla was immediately amazed by the car and grew excited.
After a brief period of persuasion, the 22-year-old man moved then 12-year-old Karla into an apartment. He lavished her with gifts such as clothes, shoes, chocolate, attention and as Karla would say, “everything was beautiful.” But even at the young inexperienced age of 12, Karla noticed lots of red flags. Karla said her boyfriend would leave her home alone for a week. His cousins would bring different girls every week to the apartment. When asked what was going on, he told her that “They’re Pimps”.
Karla then experienced four years of pure hell. She became a prostitute in one of Mexico’s largest cities; Guadalajara. She was forced to work from 10 am until midnight everyday with no time off. She would work in other cities providing sexual services in brothels, roadside motels, streets known for prostitution and even homes. She would see at least 30 customers a day, seven days a week. Karla was brutally beaten by her trafficker with a chain, kicked, spit on, punched and then burned with an iron. He would verbally abuse Karla telling her that she liked being a whore.
At the age of 15 Karla gave birth to a girl—a baby fathered by her trafficker. He would use the baby as a pawn to further control Karla. One month after giving birth to her baby, he took the baby and Karla did not see the baby again until the baby was more than one year old.
Karla Jacinto was rescued in 2008 during an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City at the age of 16. Although she survived the horrendous four years of complete torture, Karla will live a lifetime of post traumatic stress. Karla is now 25 years old. She has become a vocal advocate against human trafficking, telling her story at conferences and public events. Her testimony was used as evidence in support for H.R. 515 or Megan’s Law that mandates U.S. authorities share information pertaining to American child sex offenders when these convicts attempt to travel abroad.
Karla’s life changing experience is just one of many sex trafficking examples. Although there are several sex trafficking cases that deserve the nations complete attention, there are just as many labor trafficking cases that gets little to no publicity. The Alabama Public Radio wants to help bring an end to the silence. For the past 14 months, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been investigating human trafficking throughout the state.
According to Wikipedia Labor trafficking in the United States is a form of human trafficking were victims are unwilfully made to perform task through pressure, force, fraud or coercion. Labor trafficking is distinguished from sex trafficking as there is typically no sexual force involved. Due to its secretive nature, labor trafficking has been harder to identify, and research tends to be more geared towards sex trafficking.
The Alabama Public Radio brought Evelyn Chumbow’s story to the forefront. Evelyn is a native of Cameroon, Africa and survived labor trafficking. As a child Evelyn could recall watching “The Cosby Show” from her Cameroon home and dreamed of becoming an attorney in the US one day. Chumbow was presented with an opportunity to receive an education in the US. She packed her bags and took a flight with a Cameroonian recruiter. As she would find out later, she was not going to the US for an education. She was going to work as the recruiter’s slave.
When Evelyn reached the US, she was forced to become a slave to her recruiter Theresa Mubang. She was required to cook, clean and care for her recruiter’s children. She was never paid for her work and received numerous of beatings. For seven years Evelyn lived in constant terror, worked day and night and never stepped foot in a school. Because of her determination to be set free, Evelyn finally escaped.
Unlike many Evelyn’s story ended as a success. After years of enslavement Evelyn received her GED and then attended the University of Maryland majoring in Homeland Security. Her trafficker, Theresa Mubang, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for her criminal acts towards Evelyn. Evelyn is now an activist against modern day slavery. She has been featured on CNN and ABC and has done speaking events for the Break the Chains Campaign.
Human Trafficking is an epidemic across the world and has become a major business. Human trafficking is estimated to bring in global profits of about $150 billion a year--$99 billion is believed to come from sexual exploitation according to the International Labor Organization. Everyday human beings are being used as both sex and labor slaves, stripped from their normal lives and in the hands of criminals. Human trafficking is now a multi-billion-dollar industry and cases are increasing daily. According to Cindy McCain “this is not only a dominant issue, it’s an epidemic issue,” “it’s also something that is hiding in plain sight. It’s everywhere—it’s absolutely everywhere.”
Although there are many reasons that lead to human trafficking, some of the biggest factors that lead to children being more susceptible to adults are poverty, homelessness, dysfunction at home such as abuse and neglect, foster system, and a dramatization of the sex industry by the media, social sites and music. All these factors according to Dr. Sharon Cooper, founder and CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics are pipelines to vulnerability.
Human Trafficking is a big problem that affects not only Americans but many other countries as well. Working to increase prevention, protection and properly prosecuting traffickers are key. Eradicating poverty and restoring human rights will all aid in abolishing this horrible epidemic.