Trafficking not only is an issue in developing countries like Nepal; it is also an incredible problem in the United States. According to statistics shared at the Children at Risk Trafficking Summit in Dallas, the grand majority of trafficking victims in the U.S. are American-born citizens. To be honest, this was a surprise to me. I have heard that trafficking happens here, and that many foreigners are trafficked into the U.S.. However, I didn’t realize just how many Americans are victims. One resource from Children at Risk states that the common characteristics for victims are runaways, those with a history of sexual abuse and those with low self-esteem. They go on to share the typical characteristics of traffickers: those who often know the victims, “view the victim as a commodity” and are “masters of manipulation” (“Sex Trafficking 101”, Children at Risk). Wow! For many years I have focused on international trafficking, especially in developing countries. This summit not only opened my eyes to the issue in our own country, but also the need for Americans to learn more and fight the problem here.
OK, so I’ve been talking about statistics of human trafficking in the United States. How does that relate to our rescued girls in Nepal? For one, trafficking is a human rights issue, as it is a global issue. Though there are many differences between cultures and languages, trafficking, unfortunately, is one thing we all have in common. In talking with a professional in Dallas who works with at-risk youth, I realized how similar trafficking in Nepal is to the U.S.. There are two common tactics traffickers often use: 1) offer a great job opportunity that will make lots of money and provide for the individual’s and/or family’s needs; and 2) pursue in a romantic way, making promises of love and marriage, providing for them, and after stealing their heart, selling them into a brothel or to a pimp. I cannot tell you how many of our rescued girls in Nepal have suffered from one of these two types of traffickers. It’s shocking! I think about Cita, who after being romantically pursued by a young man over several months, decided to travel with him to India to “meet his family”. When stopped by KI Nepal staff at the border, her boyfriend immediately ran away. The staff waited with Cita at the border several days in a row for the young man to return. He was never seen or heard from again. (Thankfully she found healing and strong community in a KI Nepal safe home). Another girl who comes to mind is Alina, who was pursued by a woman who promised a well-paying job in India. Shortly after they arrived, the woman sold Alina into a brothel (She later escaped! Read her story http://redthreadmovement.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/safe-house-update/) They’re doing the same things here in the U.S.. The stories may be a little different, and the needs of the girls may vary, but the tactics remain the same.
*Names changed for protection
Girl being interviewed by KI Nepal staff at border
What does this mean for us? Several years ago, the U.S. saw trafficking as a foreign issue. Thanks to social media and readily-available research, we’ve learned that not only is trafficking taking place on our soil, our citizens are the most common victims. Trafficking is abhorrent in any culture, but considering the fact that we are a developed and privileged country, the occurrence of trafficking here is unacceptable. The more I learn about trafficking, the more determined I become to whatever I can to fight it. Who’s with me?
YOU CAN MAKE AN IMPACT. Start a club on your campus. Get a group together and go to a seminar on trafficking. Whether it is through Red Thread Movement to help girls rescued in Nepal http://www.redthreadmovement.org/, or getting connected to others passionate about ending it in the U.S. http://www.polarisproject.org/ or http://childrenatrisk.org/content/, (and so many others) you can fight human trafficking!
Rescued girls with RTM Founders