When most of us think about trafficking, we think about it on an international scale, right? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear (or read) the word “trafficking?” How about stories of girls being transported across Southeast Asian borders to work in brothels or young Chinese children whose parents think they are sending their child off to a better life, ending up enslaved in America paying off a never-ending ‘debt’ in restaurants and nail salons? Or what about the major feature films like ‘Taken’ and ‘Trade’ (both awesome movies, by the way) that you’ve seen trailers for on TV or watched on Netflix? These grotesque, global escapades catch people’s attention. The thought of a person being transported across borders, oceans, continents to an unknown land where they ‘disappear’ underground is a chilling thought to anyone.
But, what we don’t hear and think about as much is that trafficking isn’t just an international issue, it’s domestic, too. That’s a really scary thought. How about the fact that it could happen to people you know or that you’ve likely seen someone who has been trafficked within their own country? Because, you probably have.
The true statistics on human trafficking overall are difficult to come up with given the clandestine nature of the business. It’s hard to guess whether international trafficking numbers are over or underestimated; but, when you break this down to the domestic-level it is even harder to get an accurate picture. Countries may only report cases of known trafficking and forgo estimating the actual number of cases in their country, so who knows how many cases go unknown. Keep this in mind when you consider these statistics from the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking:
- 2.5 million people are estimated to be trafficked for forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time
- Almost half, or 1.2 million, of people trafficked each year are children
- 43% of victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, 98% of which are women and girls
- 95% of victims experience physical or sexual abuse during the trafficking process
Girls Educational and Mentoring Service (GEMS) is a rockstar in the world of fighting domestic trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of teenage girls. Founded by a woman who herself was sexually exploited as a child, GEMS empowers girls and young women who survived trafficking and sexual exploitation and helps them to reach their full potential. GEMS started with one woman, but now works all over the United States providing training to law enforcement and legal professionals as well as promoting policy change to support girls and young women who experienced and survived domestic trafficking.
Check out this trailer for the documentary ‘Very Young Girls’ which features the work of GEMS in the context of sexual exploitation of girls in the US:
Learn more about the amazing work GEMS is doing by visiting their website http://www.gems-girls.org/ or support them on Twitter @GEMSGIRLS #Girlsarenotforsale and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/girlsarenotforsale (Girls are not for sale).
The first featured image is from the Associated Press.
The second featured image is from GEMS.