Guest Author: Dr. Nicole Holmes, DCFOF Director of Policy and Training
When people think of Human Trafficking or the more appropriate term, sex slavery, they typically think of it as something that happens elsewhere. It is seen as a problem in places such as India, Cambodia or the Philippines. We are often reluctant to recognize the prevalence of this horrific human rights violation in our own back yard. When Americans do acknowledge that sex slavery occurs in the United States, it is still seen as an international crime. It is viewed as “others” kidnapping white women and children to be taken across seas or women brought from other countries to be forced into prostitution in the United States. While these crimes do occur at an alarmingly high rate, a large proportion of sex slavery in the U.S. falls under the category of Domestic Human Trafficking. Domestic Human Trafficking can take many forms, but the end result is an individual being forced into sexual servitude with their liberty, safety, humanity, dignity, and choice taken from them. Here are some common examples of Domestic Human Trafficking:
- A mother sells her 11 year-old daughter to a child pornography and prostitution ring for money to support her drug habit.
- A father consents to the marriage of his 12 year-old daughter to an adult male for a “bride price,” where the child experiences ongoing rape, abuse, and control.
- A husband forces his wife into prostitution; controlling the money, partners, and settings.
- A “boyfriend” or predatory male blackmails a teen girl into prostitution, continually increasing threats and control until the teen is adequately isolated from her support systems.
- A runaway teenager is offered food/shelter/compassion as a trade for sex and is then groomed to provide more sexual acts for continued support until they are eventually deep under the abuser’s control.
Any of the above situations can and often do lead to forced pornography and selling of the individuals to other “pimps,” often across state lines. The victim is often provided with drugs, given under the guise of care or fun, but in reality used to further maintain control over the victim. The victim becomes increasingly dependent on the trafficker as they are further isolated from support systems and normal life. The victim is taught to believe that they have no value beyond providing sex, would be rejected by anyone they turned to, and need the trafficker for food, shelter, protection, and drugs. The trafficker may additionally blackmail the victim with threats of disclosing what “they have done” to their family or threatened the victim with increased violence and/or harm to their loved ones. The victim’s fears of others are often reinforced when they are arrested for prostitution or possession of drugs and treated as a common criminal. The victim may try to reach out for help and be rejected because of a criminal history of prostitution or because of their drug addiction. Each of these incidents is proof to the victim that the trafficker is right and they give-up seeking a way out. Unfortunately, these women and children often have a very short life, with high incidents of murder, suicide, and drug overdose.
Despite the sad and helpless tone of this narrative, there is hope! There are agencies across the nation, like Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF), which provide services to victims of human trafficking. DCFOF has an emergency safety shelter for victims who need a hidden and comfortable place that provides secrecy and protection from the trafficker. DCFOF provides transitional housing, advocacy, legal assistance, case management, career, school, and financial guidance, and other resources to assist victims in finding independence and a new life. Additionally, DCFOF provides professional counseling for adults, adolescents, and children to help victims heal from the traumas they have experienced and find true recovery. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking/sex slavery please reach out for help.
You can call the Denton County Friends of the Family Hotline at 940-382-7273/800-572-4031 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
*Image from eglin.af