By Ashlie Bailey
Prevention- Prevention of human trafficking typically focuses on girls and sex trafficking. Most of the time prevention programs work by raising awareness and educating youth on the red flags of a possible trafficking situation, and the tactics pimps and traffickers use. Even though this type of program may prevent some youth from being trafficked; it is not as effective as it could be because it only focuses on helping girls; and because it mostly places the responsibility to prevent and fight trafficking on the shoulders of children. Children should never be expected to carry the majority of the responsibility to prevent human trafficking. The reality is that there are some trafficking situations even an aware and educated child cannot prevent or escape. Prevention programs that only focus on teaching children how to avoid being trafficked only helps some of them. For the children who were not able to avoid being trafficked; prevention programs like this place the blame on the child. For prevention to be most effective it needs to get rid of the blame and put the responsibility back where it belongs.
Root Causes and Demand- There need to be more prevention programs that focus on solving the root causes of human trafficking. The main root cause of human trafficking is the demand. Without the demand for trafficking victims, there would be no human trafficking industry. To help solve this, prevention programs need to focus more on reaching out to the potential clients or johns, and those who are most likely to fuel or contribute to labor trafficking.
The Nordic Model- In the United States, it is common for even young victims of domestic minor sex trafficking to be arrested for prostitution. Typically when a trafficking ring gets busted the traffickers or pimps are rarely charged with a crime, the clients or johns face no consequences, the girls may be sent to a recovery program if they are lucky, and the boys and LGBTQ victims are either released back onto the street where they are likely to be re-trafficked or they are arrested for petty crimes and sent to juvenile detention.
In Sweden, they have adopted a new approach called the Nordic Model. Instead of blaming or arresting the victims they now offer them help to exit the sex industry. They are able to effectively make a lasting impact on the epidemic of human trafficking by going after the Demand. Law enforcement in Sweden now arrest the traffickers and also the clients or johns who are causing the demand. This is effective because now that being a trafficker or client comes with consequences fewer men in Sweden risk participating in the sex industry. With less demand, there are now fewer traffickers, clients, and victims on the streets of Sweden.
Awareness- In the United States the majority of the funding for fighting human trafficking is spent on awareness, but it is only effective if it comes with real training on the issue. A lot of people feel that awareness is the key to fighting trafficking and it may be, but only if it inspires people to action. To fight human trafficking awareness is just the beginning. Awareness should go beyond just telling people slavery still exist.
Training- Awareness should come with training on not only what trafficking looks like and all its forms. More people need to be trained on how to effectively prevent and fight human trafficking. The areas of society that need training the most are those who directly interact with survivors on a regular basis such as law enforcement, the justice system, the medical and mental health field, other government agencies, and nonprofits who provide aftercare.
Intervention and Rescue- The majority of anti-human trafficking organizations focus on awareness and prevention. Only some anti-human trafficking organizations are involved in the rescue of survivors. Most people think of rescue as a one time overnight intervention that involves law enforcement. Some rescues turn out this way but most of them do not. Rescue could happen overnight or it could take a decade to pull someone out of their trafficking situation. Rescue isn’t always successful at first and usually takes more than one intervention or rescue attempt because of the lack of aftercare available. Without aftercare, it is common for victims to be re-trafficked even if they have escaped or been rescued. Males are more difficult to rescue than female trafficking victims because they are hard to identify and there is almost no aftercare available for them. For a rescue to succeed the survivor must be provided Support, Rehabilitation, and Aftercare.
Rehabilitation- The success of rescue and recovery for a survivor depends greatly on the quality of Support available to them. Rehabilitation could include placement into a Residential Program or a Safe Home. Most safe homes for survivors of human trafficking only accept female victims who are ages 18-25. There are few aftercare programs that specialize in care for victims of labor trafficking, child soldiers, or the illegal organ trade. These three forms of trafficking greatly affect males. There are just a handful of aftercare programs in the United States for victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking who are girls. There are currently no residential programs in the United States available for trafficked men, or for male victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. There is one safe home for boys that plans to open this year. It is estimated that half of the estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking are male. That is millions of males who need rehabilitation. By the end of this year, there will be only six spots available in the United States for boys who need residential care in a safe home.
For a rehabilitation program to succeed they must offer a holistic approach and trauma informed care. Trafficking not only effects the survivor Physically but also affects the Mind and Spirit. A good residential program treats the whole person and addresses each of these areas. This is called a Holistic Approach. The treatment for the mind should be Trauma Informed. Generally, counseling only helps a survivor of trafficking if the counselor thoroughly understands trauma and has previous experience treating it. Trafficking causes trauma and this trauma needs to be addressed for a survivor to heal.
Even though most survivors of trafficking struggle with addiction, most residential programs for survivors of trafficking do not treat addiction. If a survivor needs treatment for addiction they will most likely not be accepted into a safe home unless they go through a drug treatment program first. If a survivor applies to enter a drug treatment program they may not be accepted because they are a trafficking victim. There needs to be a way to fill this gap.
A good program should offer education, job training, and employment opportunities, however addressing the trauma should come first. Some programs overemphasize job training, don’t offer psychological care and push survivors into employment too soon. Survivors who go through programs like that don’t get their full healing.
The greatest reason for there being so few recovery programs for survivors of human trafficking in the United States is the lack of funding. This is the reason why I feel that fewer dollars should be spent on awareness and more funds should be made available for residential care and aftercare programs.
Reintegration- Reintegration is the part of recovery where the survivor moves from a residential program to transitional housing, a specialized foster home if they are a minor, or to independent living. For reintegration in this stage of recovery to be successful a survivor may need assistance finding Employment and Housing. No matter where a survivor goes during this stage of recovery, it is imperative that they receive continued aftercare.
Aftercare- For a survivor of human trafficking, recovery doesn’t end after reintegration. Recovery is a lifelong process. A survivor needs continued psychological and physical care no matter what stage of recovery they are in. After reintegration survivors need to follow up with outpatient medical care and counseling. Twelve step programs and support groups can also be helpful during this stage of recovery. This stage of recovery is more crucial than most people realize. It is during this phase of recovery that a survivor goes from surviving to thriving.
By Ashlie Bailey
When someone tries to picture what human trafficking looks like they typically envision women and children trapped in sexual slavery. While many victims of human trafficking especially domestic sex trafficking fit this image, this stereotype is only half of the picture. Half of all sex trafficking victims are male. Globally labor trafficking is even more common than sex trafficking. It is estimated that there are more males affected by labor trafficking globally than there are females trafficked for labor.
If there are that many trafficked males out there than why doesn't the awareness movement reflect the truth of their existence. When I first tried to title this article I was going to call it the forgotten survivors of human trafficking. Then I realized that referring to these boys and men as survivors doesn't fit because a huge number of the never survive their trafficking experience. I believe it is because of violence that so few male survivors live to tell their story. Even males who do survive their trafficking experience, are reluctant to publicly come forward because of fear of violence.
One of the other reasons males are reluctant to report their trafficking experience is because of the shame, secrecy, and stigma. Males are more likely than females to blame themselves for the abuse and exploitation that they lived through. In countries like the United States, it is far easier for women and girls to find support and recovery from the abuse they have suffered than it is for men and boys to find a nonjudgmental support team.
Few people are aware that males are even affected by trafficking and abuse. When someone becomes aware that this issue also affects males; their typical response is to blame the victim. When someone thinks of an abused woman it is easy to understand how she could be physically overpowered by her abuser. Because of stereotypes such as this male victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them more often than female victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them.
People imagine trafficking victims as being held by physical force. Traffickers do use physical force but more often they resort to other tactics. They use coercion and psychological control. Even if a male trafficking victim is physically stronger than their trafficker, escape still may be difficult for other reasons. These reasons are why male victims blame themselves.
Even the trafficked males themselves may not be aware of how common it is for this issue to affect boys and men. They don’t know that there are others who have gone through the same thing that they went through. They feel that they are alone in this fight. Society blames them for the abuse and they blame themselves. Everywhere they turn there is judgment. They feel a deep sense of shame, and societies view of masculinity adds to the shame. They feel that if they were strong or masculine enough than they wouldn't have been exploited. They think this happened because there is something wrong with them. All of this judgment and shame gives them more reason to keep their trafficking experience and abuse a secret.
People wonder why someone would want to become a trafficker. In the same way that a little girl does not dream of becoming a prostitute when she grows up; little boys do not dream of becoming a trafficker. I know a secret about traffickers that most people aren't aware of. In my trafficking experience, I observed a pattern. In the underground trafficking ring that I grew up in the vast majority of the other victims were boys. What is surprising to most is that a lot of the male traffickers in that ring started out as trafficked little boys. The ring recruited a lot of their traffickers by offering the young victims what they thought was their only chance of freedom. For boys, they were given a choice of traffic or continue to be trafficked. It turned out it wasn't really a choice at all. Those boys became traffickers because they were forced into it. No recovery program for men forced into this kind of situation exists. If we as a society are going to stop trafficking in all its forms then we need more than just recovery for the victims. We need to also offer some kind help for pimps and traffickers.
When problems like this are so well hidden it is almost impossible to solve them. That is why one of the first steps to helping trafficked males is awareness. Once this problem is exposed, society will have no choice but to find a way to solve it. Awareness is important but the solution doesn't end there. Awareness will only make a difference if it inspires us into action.
For more information on the solution read part two of this post The Forgotten Victims of Human Trafficking Part Two The Solution>