Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Invisible Crime

           On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on the next ten years in the fight against human trafficking.  Since I am criminal justice major and a member of the Human Trafficking Task Force in Michigan, I attended the hearing. Often described as invisible because its signs are not always obvious to the untrained eye, human trafficking is a serious crime affecting millions worldwide.  In June, the International Labor Organization released a report which estimated that 20.9 million persons suffer from the abuses of forced labor at any given moment, and the UN Office of Drugs and Crimes claimed that human trafficking yields $32 billion dollars in profits each year.  Although there are many forms of human trafficking, one aspect of trafficking is consistent in all forms—the abuse of the vulnerability of victims.  Despite its nickname, the United States is not the “Land of the Free,” for modern day slavery is not only a distant problem.  Criminal justice experts suggest that 200,000 to 300,000 U.S. youth are currently at risk of being trafficked, and calls to the National Trafficking Resource Center hotline drastically increased by an alarming 338 percent from 2008 to 2011.  Last year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot referred to the Super Bowl as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.
          While many persons may feel that they cannot do anything to solve the trafficking problem, knowing what to look for in a trafficking victim and reporting unusual behavior may help save a life.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection lists several signs of trafficking on its website.

 Suspect that something is amiss if an individual:
  • Lacks identification documents or travel documents
  • Lives and works in the same place
  • Lacks freedom of movement
  • Seems to be restricted from socializing, attending religious services or contacting family
  • Seems to have been deprived of basic life necessities, such as food, water, sleep or medical care
  • Shows signs of having been abused or physically assaulted. Such signs range from the more obvious, such as broken bones, to the more subtle, such as branding or tattooing
  • Seems submissive or fearful in the presence of others
  • Seems not to control his or her schedule
  • Seems to lack concrete short- or long-term plans
  • Seems to lack knowledge about the place where he or she lives
  • Appears to date much older, abusive or controlling men

United States Customs and Border Protection. (2012, July 22). Retrieved from

If you suspect a case of human trafficking, call 1-866-347-2423 to report it.


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