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.

Share your thoughts

6 Responses

  1. Hello, and thank you for sharing this. I have a BS in psychology and am currently in a masters of science in counseling: Marriage and family therapy (MSC/MFT) program. I sincerely want to focus my efforts on helping victims of human trafficking, and would like to know if you could give me some advice or direction as to how I can make that possible?

  2. Hey Julia,
    Sure! I definitely recommend checking out ‘Very Young Girls,’ the documentary featuring GEMS. I just found the Frontline (always good films) documentary ‘Sex Slaves’ that you can watch for free online here. Here are some other documentaries on domestic, sex and labor trafficking to check out:
    Trading Women
    Nefarious, Documentary Trilogy
    Cargo: Innocence Lost
    Not for Sale
    Flesh the Movie
    Lives for Sale
    The Day My God Died
    There’s many more out there, but this is a good start!


  3. Thanks so much for your comment Julia. Putting an end to human trafficking is no small feat. It will take a long time before this horrific practice ceases to exist. The great thing is that there are tons of anti-trafficking organizations out there, so there absolutely are things you can do to support the end of domestic and international human trafficking.

    – Find anti-trafficking groups in your area that you can get involved with to learn more about the trade and support their work in awareness-raising and lobbying legislators. If there aren’t any in your area, consider starting your own organization or start a new chapter of a national or international anti-trafficking organization in your area.

    – Support films to art that bring attention to trafficking. Attend movie screenings, put on your own viewing or purchase the DVDs.

    – Support anti-trafficking legislation. Write to your local, regional and national legislators to call for stricter anti-trafficking laws and punishment for traffickers.

    – Support businesses with zero tolerance policies against trafficking. Call for corporations and other businesses who haven’t already, to adopt these zero tolerance trafficking policies.

    -Here are a few great trafficking organizations you can check out:
    End Slavery Now: http://www.endslaverynow.com/
    End Human Trafficking Now!: http://www.endhumantraffickingnow.com/
    Slavery Footprint: http://slaveryfootprint.org/

    1. Dear Sally,
      Thanks for your suggestions! I think they are a great way to make a difference. We all have a chance to make a difference for women and children who often are the main victims of human trafficking.
      Do you have any films/documentaries to recommend?

  4. Dear Sally,
    Thank you for sharing this post with us. It is so difficult to understand that these horrific stories are realities for millions of people around us! And that human trafficking in all its forms is the fastest growing form of trade in the world! We all have a part to play to raise awareness about this. How would you recommend somebody to get involved to help put an end to trafficking? It seems like such a difficult task!
    Thanks again.

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