There a lot of good things that our nation/government is doing to fight human trafficking. Here are some obvious ones that should already be in place.
We need anti-trafficking programs in our school systems:
The average age of entry into the sex trade in the US is 12-14, approximately 6-8th grade. Waiting until adulthood to understand human trafficking is too late. Even though we might like to, waiting until high school is too late. Children are being targeted at young ages, but are not being prepared for the presence of traffickers in our societies. Age appropriate curricula to talk about human trafficking globally and locally is a basic preventative measure that should have started decades ago.
We need our professionals to be educated:
Trafficking victims are at great risk of various forms of violence at the hands of their traffickers and buyers. The average lifespan of a child sex trafficking victim is seven years after their entry into the trade. This horrifying number displays our ineffectiveness at rescuing a sex trafficking victim of any age. If law enforcement are the only ones looking for trafficking victims, they will not all be found. This is a community rescue operation, and all community members, especially those primed to come into contact with victims, are needed to be eyes and ears.
Doctors, teachers, truck drivers, hotel staff and airline employees are some of the most likely individuals to encounter human trafficking victims with regularity because of their occupations. There are programs for these occupations (with the exception of the hotel industry) whose mission is to educate and raise awareness, but some get frustratingly little support within their industry. The most effective organizations are those started by people who work in the industry. Right now, flight attendants are fighting for anti-trafficking training to be made mandatory. Less than 10% of doctors know the signs of human trafficking. How many more could be saved if anti-trafficking training was required by the AMA? Or was offered to medical students? These industries have a chance to upset the growth of the slave trade, and victims’ lifespans expire every year that passes that our communities are not on the lookout.
We need accountability:
The Trafficking in Persons Report, published every year by the US Department of State, gives the United States’ perspective on how each country is doing in the fight against human trafficking. Theoretically, if a country does not well, they are penalized with trade restrictions with the US. Politics play heavily into this every year, and the US is hardly an objective observer. Unsurprisingly, we rank ourselves in Tier 1 (the only available A on this report) every year. I’m not sure what else I expect the government to do (they can hardly rank themselves lower, while expecting others to do well on this report), but it ridiculous and unrealistic for the only accountability that we have to be with….ourselves. There is no true third party in the mix of global politics, but, if we are to really make progress, somebody besides a US non profit or the US government needs to be more objectively evaluating us.
We need to be more serious about porn and disgusted by the sexualization of children:
Child pornography is expanding in prevalence and violence exponentially every year, and our overly sexualized culture continues to sexualize younger and younger models, clothing for children, and market anti aging products for 8 year olds. Even the dolls our children play with send them a message about what a girl should look like. The average age that a child first views pornography is 8 years old. Meanwhile, we mock the David Cameron as he leads the UK to block violent and child pornography and pornography in households with young children. If we continue to send all of these hypersexualized messages to our children, they will be less and less surprised when adult men want to have sex with them.
We need to get law enforcement on the side of the victim:
The Swedish model, which decriminalizes prostitution, and criminalizes johns and pimps, has been effective in its time. Similar legislation has been less effective in Norway, but is still making progress. France went for the full buck and criminalized everything, buying and selling prostitution. Whatever you think of these models or of legal prostitution, our legislation is outdated and has been proved to work in the trafficker’s favor, and be dangerous for the victim. There is a great chasm between human trafficking victims and law enforcement. Right now, sex trafficking victims are more likely to be bought for sex or arrested and charged by law enforcement than they are to be rescued. Something needs to be different.
We need to be willing to spend money on this fight:
These statistics leave little room for imagination as to why slavery, a $150 billion industry, continues to flourish, despite our efforts. Until we are ready and willing to invest in this fight, we will not win the war.