One part of V-Day’s mission is to generate “broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.”
In the United States, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, an initiative that is designed to increase awareness of the nationwide problem of human trafficking and to help teach ways to prevent trafficking. As sex slavery is one form of human trafficking, V-Day Raleigh is publishing this blog entry as a way to help spread awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking, both nationwide and right here in North Carolina.
What is Human Trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act defines human trafficking as: “a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or b) 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.”
Project No Rest is an organization that works to increase awareness and prevention around human trafficking in North Carolina. In short, according to Project No Rest, human trafficking is “the act of forcing, fooling, or frightening someone into performing labor or sex acts for profit.”
A victim is not required to have been physically transported to another location in order for the crime to fall under the human trafficking definition. Human trafficking can take the form of not only sex trafficking, but also forced labor trafficking – forced domestic servitude, forced agricultural work, etc. Human trafficking victims can be anyone, anywhere – they can be of any gender, any race, and any age. They can be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, or immigrants.
Human Trafficking in North Carolina
In 2016, the state of North Carolina ranked eighth in the nation in regards to the volume of calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH). This means the hotline received more calls from North Carolina than from most other states in the nation. And these are just the human trafficking situations that were reported – many aren’t.
Why is North Carolina considered one of the top ten states in the nation for human trafficking? The North Carolina Department of Administration notes that there are many factors. Transportation is one – many major highways run through North Carolina, such as 40, 85, and 95. North Carolina also has a large number of rural agricultural areas where cheap labor is in high demand. An increase in gang activity and drug activity are additional factors.
What are the Signs of Human Trafficking?
The National Human Trafficking Hotline provides the following list of red flags that might indicate that someone you know is being trafficked. These may not be all the signs, and they may not be present in every case.
Common Work and Living Conditions:
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health:
- Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by employer
- Appears malnourished or shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control:
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
What To Do if You Think Someone is Being Trafficked
If you observe any of the red flags listed above -or if you are experiencing them yourself – contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. This is a toll-free hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline is staffed by specially-trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates who can help you or the person you suspect is being trafficked.
Project No Rest also advises using caution if you approach a trafficking victim – most trafficking victims are constantly watched by their trafficker and approaching them directly could be dangerous for both you and the victim. Take action by calling the hotline and providing as much information as you can, but be safe. Together, we can help decrease the amount of human trafficking here in North Carolina and remind everyone that human beings are not for sale.