Human trafficking (HT) has affected numerous people, ruining lives and leading to trauma development in victims. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not secure from HT; on the contrary, reports establish that the extent of HT has been rising in the U.S. (Franchino-Olsen, 2021). Specifically, according to the World Population Review, a total of 11,500 cases of HT were registered in the U.S. in 2019 (“Human Trafficking Statistics by State 2022”, 2022). Currently, Nevada, Mississippi, and Florida remain the least safe states in regard to the HT issue, with the levels of HT being 7.38, 5.00, and 4.04 per 100,000, respectively (“Human Trafficking Statistics by State 2022,” 2022). The specified statistics is quite disturbing since it indicates an obvious moral issue within the fabric of American society. By combining increased intelligence supported by the latest technology with a detailed analysis of the sociocultural and socioeconomic factors to identify and safeguard potential victims, one will be able to address the problem of HT within the U.S.
The phenomenon of HT covers a range of issues, which is why its definition is substantially complex. As a rule, HT implies either sexual exploitation of vulnerable groups or forced harboring for unpaid labor (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022). Therefore, the current U.S. legislation offers two definitions for HT, each addressing the respective issue. Specifically, sex trafficking is interpreted in the following manner:
[…] the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022, para. 3)
The provided definition covers all possible instances of sex trafficking, which is critical for assisting victims of HT and populations at risk that may be under the threat of being coerced into HT. Thus, the definition in question can be considered fully functional. However, it fails to embrace the problem of labor trafficking, which is why a separate definition is provided for the latter. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2022), labor trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022, para. 4). Understanding the difference between the two allows creating effective strategies for targeting a specific HT type and, thus, safeguarding a greater range of people in a more efficient manner.
The causes of human trafficking are quite numerous, yet most of them can be reduced to the problems of economy, finances, education, and biases. Nevertheless, understanding each factor is vital for developing a multifaceted approach to fighting HT. Therefore, a thorough overview of the issue is required.
There is no secret that people deprived of basic necessities are most likely to be trafficked into forced labor or prostitution. Therefore, poverty should be considered as the most likely contributor to the increase in human trafficking. Similarly, homelessness as the extreme manifestation of poverty increases the threat of being trafficked exponentially (Twis, 2019). In other words, economic factors are not to be underestimated as the leading factors behind the increase in the HT rates.
Furthermore, when discussing the relevance of economic concerns for the management of HT, one must also focus on educational opportunities, particularly, for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as members of ethnic minorities. Research allows concluding that the absence of education opportunities and, therefore, employment options often exposes vulnerable groups, especially women and LGBT community members, to the threat of being trafficked (Franchino-Olsen, 2021). Therefore, options for education and employment must be provided to all communities at risk.
The presence of political instability is often viewed as another contributor to the increase in the level of HT. Although in the U.S., no0 major political disturbances have been observed over the past decade, there is still a presence of an obvious political divide between the Democratic Left and the Republican Right, which leads to the increase in political tensions (Blanton et al., 2020). As a result, delays in shaping legal standards for safeguarding potential victims of human trafficking increase (Blanton et al., 2020). Moreover, HT perpetrators in the U.S. tend to seek out migrants from countries with major political instabilities as some of the most vulnerable groups in the U.S. population in order to force them into sex or labor trafficking (Blanton et al., 2020). Therefore, the phenomena of civil unrest and militarism do not have to exist within the U.S. political system in order to make vulnerable members of the American community fall prey to HT perpetrators.
Similarly, the phenomenon of displacement and the absence of safe migration options for the people subjected to it should be recognized as a major factor shaping the levels of HT in the U.S. Indeed, studies point to the problem of displacement as a multifaceted issue that su8bjecst one to socioeconomic and psychological issues that expose one to the threat of HT (Cook et al., 2022). Moreover, since displacement may occur as a result of a natural disaster or a similar phenomenon, the lack of sustainable strategies for meeting the needs of populations exposed to HT during a disaster should be blamed for an increase in HT rates in the U.S. (Cook et al., 2022). Therefore, the approach to managing the issue of HT needs to incorporate a functional approach to disaster management and risk mitigation.
Finally, the issues of demand and profit need to be placed at the top of the factors contributing to a rise in HT in the U.S. As long as there is demand for prostitution and unpaid labor, HT-related crimes will continue to take place in the U.S. context (Paraskevas & Brookes, 2018). Given the tremendous profits that HT as a massive criminal machine brings, it is likely to be perpetuated until the demand for unpaid labor and prostitution ceases to exist (Paraskevas & Brookes, 2018). Therefore, the existing regulations regarding the persecution of perpetrators of HT must be reinforced, whereas the people trafficked must be viewed as victims and not as criminals.
In order to be able to adders the phenomenon of HT accordingly, it is vital to be aware of what populations are at risk. Statistical data on the current HT levels and the people targeted by it demonstrate that women, particularly, indigenous women, women from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and underage girls are disproportionately affected by HT (Franchino-Olsen, 2021). Furthermore, disabled people and members of the LGBT community, particularly, gay men and transgender men and women, are prone to become victims of HT (Franchino-Olsen, 2021). Therefore, the specified categories of the U.S. population must be provided with the support required to minimize their chances to be affected by HT.
Several solutions to elimination the phenomenon of HT from the U.S. environment have been opposed and implemented over the past several decades. However, even though some of them have led to minor drops in HT rates, the phenomenon itself remains in place (Cook et al., 2022). Therefore, a comprehensive strategy targeting all of the core factors, including economic, political, social, and cultural, must be implemented. Presently, the strategies involving reinforcement of legal repercussion for HT have been implemented as some of the main measures against HT. While the specified component of the HT management framework is important, it should eb carried out in a more elaborate fashion.
Additionally, the development of international programs involving active collaboration with foreign organizations to counteract HT on a global scale has been attempted. The described efforts should be considered as particularly meaningful since they allow for a diverse approach to managing and mitigating HT (Gallo et al., 2022). However, due to the challenges associated with international collaboration, the programs in question have also been lacking efficiency (Gallo et al., 2022). The specified criticism does not imply that the existing standards for addressing HT must be abandoned. Instead, it suggests that the current frameworks for mitigating and counteracting HT should be enriched by incorporating additional elements that would help confront the concern more effectively. Specifically, vulnerabilities associated with the economic, sociocultural, and political status of HT victims and groups at risk must be taken into consideration when designing an appropriate HT mitigation program.
The proposed solutions can be seen as quite effective in theory for several reasons. First and most importantly, the targeted approach implemented by the U.S. government and the relevant organizations allows isolating and addressing specific issues that contribute to HT, thus, managing each factor individually. The specified framework helps manage the existing concerns methodically and in an orderly fashion. As a result, the efficacy of the proposed frameworks and the performance of the respective organization rise.
In addition, one must congratulate the U.S. government and the associated organizations on introducing the framework that allows viewing people subjected to HT, particularly, women forced into sex trade, as victims (Twis, 2019). The specified approach helps relieve prostitution of its stigma and, therefore, ensure that victims of HT receive the necessary amount of support from society. Moreover, the representation of people involved in HT as victims encourages law enforcement organizations to take their concerns as legitimate and, therefore, investigate HT crimes thoroughly and diligently.
Finally, one of the core advantages of the existing frameworks for addressing HT and mitigating it concerns the focus on minimizing stigmatization of prostitution and raising public awareness concerning the issue. Admittedly, the introduction of the term “sex work” as a substitute for the term “prostitution” is quite controversial since it implies that sex trafficking could be represented as labor, implying that victims could have agreed to it, which, in itself, is a tragic misinterpretation of the problem (Twis, 2019). However, the emphasis on building awareness concerning HT, specifically, he trauma that HT victims suffer and the support that they require, has led to a noticeable increase in empathy toward HT victims among general audiences (Okech et al., 2018). Therefore, the existing solutions can be considered as quite viable, even though they strongly require supporting frameworks that would enhance their efficacy.
Unfortunately, even with numerous advantages that the existing strategies have, there is a substantial number of problems in their design. The lack of focus on collaboration between organizations that seek to adders the needs of HT victims, as well as the cooperation between HT-related charities and the police, should be seen as a massive disadvantage. The lack of coordination between the actions of all parties involved leads to a substantial drop in their efficacy.
Another dent in the existing approaches to eliminating HT is linked to the lack of focus on reducing the demand for prostitution. As emphasized above, the specified factor remains one of the leading causes for HT to exist in the first place, which is why it must be tackled first (Gallo et al., 2022). However, due to the complex nature of the demand for commercial sex, which incorporates socially accepted misogyny, misplaced perception of the concept of intimacy, and the perception of sex as an unhealthy activity, the problem remains unresolved. Therefore, nationwide education concerning the subject matter should be regarded as a necessary ste4p along with a change in the attitudes toward intimacy and sexual relationships.
Finally, the current approaches to minimizing HT in the U.S. suffer from the lack of a multifactor perspective that would embrace economic, political, financial, and cultural issues that drive the development of the HT issue (Gallo et al., 2022). Specifically, the HT concern must be viewed as a product of poverty, poor education and employment opportunities, cultural and racial discrimination, and other relevant factors mentioned above. With the introduction of an integrated approach that would allow managing the described issue, one can expect a rise in the efficacy of preventing HT, as well as addressing the ongoing HT cases, rescuing victims, and providing HT victims with the required therapy and support.
Overall, to adders the problem of HT, one must ensure that all of the core factors contributing to it are addressed in a single framework. The specified solution will require active collaboration between the government and the related organizations so that a comprehensive program could be coordinated and implemented accordingly. Furthermore, a massive communication channel for building the dialogue between HT victims and supporting organizations must be established.
Introducing measures involving intensified intelligence measures supported by innovative technology for surveillance and communication, as well as the active analysis of sociocultural and socioeconomic contributors to HT will help reduce HT. Since the current range of causes contributing to the rise in HT is exceptionally diverse and complex, incorporating a framework that will help target all facets and aspects of HT will be necessary. Therefore, a combination of the sociocultural analysis for locating vulnerable groups at risk, as well as present victims of HT, will be essential. Moreover, an integrated approach involving the identification of people affected by the political instability and the presence of organized crime in the target area will be critical for fighting HT. Finally, enhancement of risk management strategies against natural disasters and other issues that may create premises for emergence of vulnerable groups and their further grooming into HT, will be required. By following the specified approach, one may expect to reduce the levels of HT in the U.S.
Blanton, R. G., Blanton, S. L., & Peksen, D. (2020). Confronting human trafficking: The role of state capacity. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 37(4), 471-489.
Cook, M. C., Le, P. D., & García, J. J. (2022). Addressing racism in the domestic minor sex trafficking of Black girls: the role of public health critical race praxis. Public Health Reports, 137(1_suppl), 10S-16S.
Franchino-Olsen, H. (2021). Vulnerabilities relevant for commercial sexual exploitation of children/domestic minor sex trafficking: A systematic review of risk factors. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 22(1), 99-111.
Gallo, M., Thinyane, H., & Teufel, J. (2022). Community health centers and sentinel surveillance of human trafficking in the United States. Public Health Reports, 137(1_suppl), 23S-29S.
Human Trafficking Statistics by State 2022. (2022).
Okech, D., Choi, Y. J., Elkins, J., & Burns, A. C. (2018). Seventeen years of human trafficking research in social work: A review of the literature. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 15(2), 103-122.
Paraskevas, A., & Brookes, M. (2018). Human trafficking in hotels: An “invisible” threat for a vulnerable industry. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 1, pp. 1-36.
Twis, M. K. (2020). Risk factor patterns in domestic minor sex trafficking relationships. Journal of Human Trafficking, 6(3), 309-326.