Some anti-human trafficking advocates have said that only 1 in 100 victims of human trafficking will ever be rescued. I don’t know how this was determined, but I honestly believe that this does not have to be the reality. In the past 9 months, 108 victims of sex trafficking in the United States have been rescued by the rescue shield teams of Bishop Outreach and partner organizations in conjunction with authorities. Lessons learned from those beginning rescues have been valuable and can only be enhanced if stakeholders are willing to work together. The outcome of collaboration between law enforcement and non-government organizations will only result in more rescues and more cases that go to trial. And we will see the 1 in 100 stat grow progressively in the next few years.
Sex Trafficking in the United States
With all of the awareness and education that has taken place in the past several years there is still somewhat of a resistance by many Americans to accept the facts that American men are purchasing Americans and enslaving them in this atrocious crime. I think primarily because they do not completely understand what human trafficking is. The United States version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons” as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years; or, Labor Trafficking as 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.
The UN Trafficking Protocol (the Palermo Protocol of 2000, an international legal agreement attached to the UN) contains the first internationally agreed upon definition of human trafficking. The heart of the Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking as: (a) [… ] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. It is the opinion of TIATF that the US should include in its definition the terminology consistent with the UN Protocol since it further distinguishes that the trafficker use “… deception, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability… ” when seeking their victims. Traffickers look for the vulnerable knowing how to deceive and manipulate them – the worst form of abduction – by causing one to lose trust in those they should trust the most. It takes a lifetime to “re-program” someone that has been manipulated in this manner.
What is the magnitude of human trafficking in the United States?
Statistics are generally the first thing we learn when becoming educated about human trafficking, yet it is the most unreliable source for learning the truth and the magnitude of the problem. If we want stats there are plenty of them to go around, but they all differ depending on the source that is cited. Most human trafficking advocates seem to take the higher stats and send them around in video’s and articles, placing them on websites and when speaking. I suppose it makes for a better case. And, quite honestly, when Trafficking In America Task Force was a new organization we did the same thing. We took the stats that were available and without in depth knowledge of the reality, simply painted a picture based on statistical outlines. It’s just so alarming the first time you learn about it and so you begin to hear that 100,000 to 300,000 potential new victims are trafficked each year in America, or that there are 27 million slaves world-wide and 800,000 new victims are trafficked every year (one stat says this is the number of runaways reported in the US annually). Then there is the average age of a victim being 12 – 13/14. Most stats floating around today are about 7-10 years old and people still use them.
The International Labor Organization, relatively trust worthy, came out in 2013 with a new figure that human trafficking is a $34 billion dollar industry world-wide and that sex trafficking had decreased while labor trafficking had increased. Many NGO’s still use the former 32 billion – so what is a couple of billion here and there? That’s a lot of revenue being generated by traumatically abusing people (50% under the age of 18) and yes; both males and females are trafficked. We have stats on runaways and how many hours it takes for them to be coerced into the commercial sex industry (48 by some accounting while 1/3 are supposedly trafficked and 2/3 go home in a few days); stats on the number of times a victim is sold every day (10 to 40); stats on fatherless homes (95% of runaways come from fatherless homes); and on. Stats will drive you crazy if you let them. But the reality is that they do at least give us a picture that something is tragically wrong in the United States of America – so we must work to fix it.
From the Department of Education we are told that, an unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country for sexual servitude and forced labor. Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female. Common examples of identified child trafficking cases include: Commercial sex, Stripping, Pornography, Forced begging, Magazine crews, Au pairs or nannies, Restaurant work, Hair and Nail salons, Agricultural work, and Drug sales and cultivation.
Rescue of human trafficking victims shows us the reality that no statistic can
On July 11, 2013 Testimony from Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons He states, “Victim identification is the critical first step in stopping this crime. Yet only about 47,000 victims were brought to light in the last year, compared to up to 27 million people living in slavery. That massive gap represents the millions who toil unseen and beyond the reach of law, and it shows how far we have to go in this effort.” That is actually lower than the stated 1 in 100. According to this report,.57% (one half of one tenth of a percent) were brought to light (were these indeed all rescues?) worldwide.
So let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road as “they” say. Let’s talk rescue — I met Bishop in April 2013 when he called me to share his story. After listening for a while, I asked him to speak at our annual Trafficking in America Conference the next month. I wasn’t even home yet from the conference when I received a call from the masked man I really didn’t know that well yet, who was simply passionate about rescuing victims and needing some connections to help rescue a young woman. We’ve been working together ever since and he along with new forged partnerships of like mission have now been responsible for 108 successful rescues across the country at this writing.
Bishop uses his personal experiences to show how this multi-billion dollar a year industry works from the inside out. With his expertise as a noted gang expert, certified as a gang specialist in MSG, OMG, and STG groups, he holds a multi-state private investigator license and spent four years as an undercover agent with DOJ on Organized Crime. Bishop is able to educate how to see the warning signs, protect your loved ones, and how we can all work together to make a difference in our communities.
So — why the mask? While serving as an undercover agent for the DOJ, Bishop turned over a number of high profile gang members and human traffickers to the DOJ. The threat of retribution is real, thus he wears this mask to protect himself and family.
Cooperation from and with Law Enforcement
We had a rescue in a southern city several months ago that opened our eyes as to the denial (for whatever reason) that some law enforcement and some cities have regarding human trafficking activity in their area. There can only be three (and a half) reasons for this: 1) dirty cops; 2) an image to protect so as not to lose valuable dollars from tourism and/or protect their citizens from panic mode; or 3) ignorance of the reality of what human trafficking is. In this particular case, I believe all three and a half were present. And several victims were left behind on this particular rescue. Bishop Outreach will not rescue without the support of local and/or state authorities cooperation and support. They understand the law and they work in conjunction with it for the benefit of justice for victims.
On the other hand when a good connection is made with law enforcement agencies that are completely engaged and educated on the reality of human trafficking, the magic takes place and the unexpected happens. Victims get rescued, are transported to safety to begin their restorative journey, and good data is collected for court cases. There is no room for territorial pride in this matter. We have had law enforcement tell us that they need the support of non-government organizations (NGOs) because they can’t do it all and we have had them tell us to go away. Go figure! Collaborative efforts are still the best means to a harmonious end.
NGOs as well as Department of Children and Families (DCF) and other government agencies are working with victims all across the Unites States. These are the ones that have the first hand knowledge of this issue from the inside out. They are counselors, psychologists, medical professionals, licensed educators, and simply put passionate people that spend their lives cleaning up the messes that humans make in one another’s lives. They are the ones that prepare them for their new lives and potential court cases. Law enforcement needs them. Every LE agency should have someone in the services area to work with them on rescues to not only help identify the reality of human trafficking, but to be available to begin their trek to restored dignity and honor the moment they are brought out of the clutches of traffickers and into safety.
Placement and victim services for restoration
The Defender Foundation partners with Bishop Outreach. Their After Care Team is committed to creating care networks of collaborating service providers who have the goal of restoring human trafficking victims; mind, body, and spirit. Volunteers in the After Care Team assess victims after they are rescued, process the necessary paperwork, keep in contact with shelters and service providers that provide care to victims, and follow up with victims over time. They also collaborate with shelters and safe houses to conduct drives to obtain food, clothing, supplies, and other resources that are needed. Volunteers will also make sure the victim’s needs are being met during the rehabilitation process at the shelter or safe house and as they are reintegrated into society. The Defender Foundation has a protocol in place that they do not step outside of when it comes to protecting and serving survivors on their way to wholeness. Serving as an After Care Team Volunteer requires a deep compassion for working with victims. They are especially interested in those with experience in the mental health field and licensed as well as unlicensed clinicians.
Rescue is where we will learn the truth about human trafficking – not the stats. Rescuing victims not only allows NGO’s to gain valuable insight into what a person experiences from traffickers, but how they are treated by the johns, what the living conditions are like, what their health ramifications are, and much more. A search light into this darkness reveals all that we need to know in order to address it from a societal standpoint. While data collection in numbers is good, data collection from victims and traffickers is better. It is during the rescue and restoration process that this most valuable information is gleaned and we need more research dedicated to unraveling the complexities that we now know as human trafficking.