Human trafficking is modern slavery. It’s the nightmare that isn’t a dream. People think it’s a thing of the past, but it’s not; it’s a thing of the present.
According to Fight4Freedom, trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, and harbour of persons for the purpose of exploitation; human trafficking can be in the form of forced labour, servitude or sexual exploitation.”
And it’s in our towns and communities. 1500 people are trafficked into Canada annually. But 90% of trafficking victims originate from within Canada.
Some of the ways people get trafficked are through luring and false job advertisement, false immigration, being sold by their family, or by abduction.
Plus, it’s the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $190 billion (USD) every single year. 20-40 million people were trapped in modern slavery in 2016, and that includes two million children in the sex trade.
The point of this post is to highlight seven little-known facts about local trafficking, particularly in the sex trade. Getting informed is one of the ways to be more engaged.
When I say “local” I do so for four reasons:
(a) Trafficking is not just something that happens in faraway countries.
(b) Trafficking happens in North America as well, including affluent communities.
(c) What I’m about to say applies to my own local community.
(d) These seven points are meant to open our eyes and help us think through how our own actions may or may not contribute to the trafficking problem.
1. Some strippers are victims of sex-trafficking
When people visit strip clubs they can naively assume that performers are there by their own choice. But that’s not always the case. Some are modern slaves.
2. Victims can be much younger than you think, MUCH younger
The depths of human depravity and evil in our world are staggering. Most victims start to be trafficked between 11 and 14 years old, but there are some as young as babies and toddlers.
For all our talk of the world “getting better,” we need to open our eyes and stop believing the myth of continual progress in Western society. Are some things getting better? Yes. Are all things getting better? Definitely not. The demand and problem is growing and getting worse. Sexual perversion and violence is expanding, and even the most vulnerable among us can be victims.
Nicole Bell is a trafficking survivor who spoke at the Women in the World Summit. She said, “We look at [sex work] and trafficking as two different things, but most people in [the sex trade] have experienced trafficking in some form… Most were brought into this before they were old enough to consent to have sex—never mind to being sold for sex.”
3. Pornography creates demand for trafficking
Pornography is being normalized, and more people are tuning in. Last year there were 33.5 billion visits to the world’s most popular free porn site. Plus, it’s more easily accessible than at any other time in human history.
All of this creates demand for trafficking. Again, many people think everyone in these pictures and videos is there by their own choice, but this not always the case. And there’s no way to tell simply by watching.
Plus, as attitudes loosen towards the use of sex and sexuality, and as use and demand for pornography increases, so does violence against the people involved. Based on how the human mind works, satisfying sexual fantasies through pornography creates appetites for newer/harder fantasies. Sometimes this can lead to increasing physical violence and, in some cases, death to some of the actors/participants.
4. Rental homes can be used for trafficking
Unfortunately, we’re hearing about this more and more, especially with rental homes and properties made available through companies like Airbnb.
Slave owners (or “Johns”) are able to move people around without detection by renting and using locations they don’t own and which others lend out.
After an arrest in 2018, Det.-Sgt. Nunzio Tramontozzi reported to the Toronto Star that investigators have noticed an uptick in pimps using Airbnb rentals recently, most likely because they’re more anonymous, and it’s more challenging for police to get information about them compared to traditional hotels and motels. (For their part, I’ve heard that Airbnb is trying to crack down.)
Be very cautious.
5. “Massage” parlors are widely used for sex trafficking
In my own community alone, there are dozens of “massage parlors.” There are, of course, legitimate places to get a massage; but those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. The ones I’m addressing here are those shady places which masquerade as legitimate businesses, but have rooms where people can make sexual purchases. When you start to look for them you start to see them everywhere. Again, just like strip clubs, some of the workers are trafficked.
6. The legalization of prostitution helps trafficking and hurts victims more
Some people advocate the legalization of prostitution as if it is something progressive and noble, and that it may even decrease sex trafficking.
But this is simply not the case. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco holds a Ph.D. in criminology, law and society from George Mason University and is a human trafficking expert. She writes that the legalization of prostitution “would increase the prevalence of sex trafficking and further inhibit law enforcement’s efforts to intervene… it would further complicate the problem.”
The idea of legalizing prostitution, regardless of your moral views, is so incredibly naive that it wreaks of the widespread blindness to evil and perversion in our world.
7. The internet is making trafficking harder to track and curb
People love to talk about how great the internet is. And there are obviously some good things. (Like funny cat videos and watching your cousin Jimmy hike Mount Kilimanjaro.)
But luring can happen online. Sometimes potential boyfriends or girlfriends pose as normal people in various online forums; this is called the “boyfriend technique.” In these cases, human contact is made, minds can be manipulated, the movement of people can be organized, and criminals can communicate with each other very quickly. Plus, as I mentioned above, the explosion of pornography makes everything worse and increases demand.
A word should also be said about children, youth and the internet.
Parents and young people need to be very cautious. The average age for young people viewing pornography for the first time is 11. FightTheNewDrug.org says, “If 60% of 10 and 11-year-olds have smartphones, is it really all that surprising that, sometimes, they encounter porn online whether they’re looking for it or not?”
It should also be noted that young people who see pornography, especially “hardcore” pornography (which is increasingly the new normal), eventually want to try out the same things for themselves. This changes their thinking patterns and leads towards increased violence in behaviour.
Some parents have programs that help them monitor their child’s online activity. But an expanding smart phone culture in an increasingly permissive culture makes it difficult to track all activity. Plus, there are ways to get around safeguard apps.
By being fast and loose with kids and smart phones, we risk making it easier for others to harm our children’s brains and allow predators to quietly enter our homes. Ask a police officer who works on these cases and they’ll tell you how easy it is to hack devices and access cameras to watch children in their rooms and obtain knowledge about them.
Many of you are thinking that the picture is pretty bleak.
But, as always, there is hope!
According to a recent update by Fight4Freedom, 18 people have been rescued (or have left) the industry in Canada so far in 2019! Almost 300 people were charged earlier this year in Florida in an investigation involving a massive sex trafficking ring. And awareness is growing.
Personally, I’m encouraged by organizations like Fight4Freedom. They currently have teams in 18 Canadian cities. They have some staff and many volunteers. They engage in outreaches to strip clubs and massage parlors, and other locations where potential victims might be, and build relationships of trust with the participants. They create care packages, have a robust ministry of prayer, help with rescues, partner with organizations to help survivors get the right resources, assist in the well-being of those survivors, and advocate for change in policies to eradicate trafficking in Canada.
I’m planning on hosting a local event soon for people to learn more about trafficking, and to discover some very practical ways that people can help. And there are in fact some very practical ways for people to help.
So stay tuned!
Trafficking is the nightmare that isn’t a dream. We need to live with our eyes wide open, take seriously the depths of human depravity and suffering, and work diligently in hope.