by Lindsey Herndon, UNC Charlotte
Sex trafficking is a complete violation of basic human rights. This social justice issue takes a significant emotional, mental, and social toll on survivors. Many victims have lost their lives while others struggle on a daily basis as they cope with the memories and trauma of this crime. While we like to not think that something this disgusting happens in America, it is one of the most prevalent, world-wide crimes next to drug and firearm trafficking, bringing in billions of dollars every year. While the United States is among the top leading nations to take action against human trafficking, it still affects this county more than what many people realize. Every year, thousands of cases are reported, and thousands more occur under the radar. However, the practices of sexual slavery and exploitation are older than recorded history. Whenever a woman or girl — or man or boy — was without status or protection, she or he could have been subjected to sexual exploitation. The same is true today in the United States.
Due to the fact that data on sex trafficking is not completely accurate, so many victims are silenced in their suffering. Like exploited parts of the environment, victims of sex trafficking do not have a voice to speak out with and expose their horrible conditions. Traffickers also play into this narrative by often telling exploited victims that they themselves are offenders, and that they will be charged with the crime of prostitution if they go to law enforcement.
There is not one simple factor that perpetuates sex trafficking. Instead, multiple factors, such as: political, socioeconomic, governmental, and societal factors all intertwine to keep this problem alive. Rural poverty and inequality are two material causes for sex trafficking. Sex and gender discrimination, natural disasters, personal problems which increase vulnerability, and cultural norms which discriminate certain populations also serve as factors which support the supply side of trafficking. Ultimately, individuals want to reap the profits from exploiting others through based on the demand for inexpensive sexual acts. Their greed and desire for something that will only benefit themselves drives them to put the lives of human being in danger and a living nightmare.
As Francis Bacon proclaimed throughout his intellectual journey, “knowledge is power”. It is crucial for American citizens of all ages to be aware of possible signs of human trafficking. In a society where the exact number of victims is uncertain because so many cases go unreported each year, it can be difficult to determine who is actually a victim and who is not. Bacon supported the practice of extracting products of nature from their natural habitat for the benefit of mankind. To an extent, this is ultimately what supporters of trafficking are doing; they are taking people away from their normal lives and placing them in a situation or area of control where they are exploited by those who are seeking after something specific. One overbearing factor in the practice of trafficking is the belief that the lives of girls and women are expendable. Women are at greater risk for being abused, coerced, and trafficked into sex slavery in areas where the society undervalues them. This brings up the question that if women experienced improved social and economic status, would trafficking number significantly decrease? If we as a society respected our environment more, wouldn’t we experience less problems from global warming?