How many human trafficking cases have been reported in your state?
In order to address a problem, you first have to understand the scope of it.
That idea is the impetus behind University of Southern California professor Annalisa Enrile’s new microsite digging into the realities of human trafficking. Data on the site gives a comprehensive look at human trafficking routes, state-by-state cases, convictions, and even more obscure data around less talked about issues like child soldiers.
The numbers are — in a word — staggering: according to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated around 21 million victims of forced labour worldwide.
“That is shocking when you think about the sheer numbers,” Enrile told A Plus. “It’s daunting. And, the reason that it is surprising is that I suspect that it is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many people we cannot find who are hidden or invisible or captive.”
Today, human trafficking is defined as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
According to Enrile’s website, the most common ways people are swept up into human trafficking are as follows:
- Kidnapping, illegal adoption and forced marriage.
- False job advertisements or employment prospects, debt bondage and wage theft.
- Violence, physical threats, intimidation and isolation.
- Psychological manipulation, seduction, dependency and false offers of protection.
Enrile’s initiative comes when human trafficking is top of mind of many Americans. President Donald Trump has begun an initiative to combat human trafficking and A Plus co-founder Ashton Kutcher recently gave widely viewed testimony about the issue to the Senate.
“I believe that more and more people are beginning to see trafficking and modern day slavery that is right in front of their faces and this is because there has been an effort by the anti-trafficking movement to raise awareness and provide trainings in all sorts areas,” Enrile said. “These trainings spread the word, but also increases our ability to identify vulnerabilities and victims.”
Graphics on the website illustrate the problem, making it feel both real and local (because, of course, it often is local).One graphic breaks down the number of reported cases on a state-by-state basis in America. The darker a state’s color, the more cases were reported. California, Texas, and Florida stand out in particular on the map.
Enrile isn’t alone in her fight against human trafficking. The United Nations adopted the Palermo Protocol in 2000 which helped define the “three P’s” that created a pathway to freedom: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. In 2010, they added Partnership — an objective that Enrile hopes is helped by making resources like hers available to the public.
“A successful campaign begins with understanding the issue,” Enrile said. “That’s why our work on this website is so important… Everyone can make a difference no matter what role they choose or however small or large an effort they make.”
In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is the most significant piece of legislation to combat human trafficking. Through a series of laws, it established clear penalties for prosecuting criminals and also established a victims’ bill of rights. Through the TVPA, the U.S. also developed the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, “which collects data and publishes a report each year recording progress made throughout the world,” according to Enrile’s website.
While there seems to be a powerful front combatting human trafficking, there is also some disturbing data about how the problem is getting worse.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline has been tracking reports of human trafficking since 2007. Over the past 10 years, they’ve received reports of 30,000 cases in the United States alone, and recently have seen a noticeable uptick.
But as the number of reported cases goes up, so too has the number of reported prosecutions. In 2015, there were three times the number of prosecutions and double the number of convictions as in 2008.
“What continues to shock me is the sheer inhumanity in which people can do harm to other people,” Enrile said. “It never ceases to take my breath away the stories that I hear from victims and survivors of how resilient they must be, the bravery they must have to persevere, and the hope, this beautiful hope they have that life has something better for them.”
By A Plus’ ISAAC SAUL