Raising Slaves and Slavers- A Look at the Mindset behind Human Trafficking in the United States

July 11, 2014

Today, we live in a world with more slaves than there has ever been in history before. Here in the US, If a child runs away from home at any point in his or her life, he or she has a 2 out of 3 chance of being taken by a trafficker within the first 48 hours (ECPAT). I fear many fates for my children, but I hate this fear the most. There is no place I can live, no country I can move to to escape this chance for my children. The risk of slavery for them is everywhere. 


If we wish to be able to say with confidence that our children will not be slaves, we must create a slave free world. Slavery is no longer racist; it is gender biased but not gender specific. Simply being human puts the next generation of children at risk of being enslaved.


We also cannot ignore the horrifying fact that we are not only raising slaves in our community, but we are raising their slavers as well. Since the illegalization of slavery in the US, we can say confidently that they have not been openly taught to attempt to own another human being. So what is the motive of the average American trafficker today? What societal mindset contributes to the growth of trafficking? Racism? Sexism? Simple ignorance? Perhaps some or all of these. As an anti-human trafficking advocate, I see most especially greed. We have countrymen, and not a small number, willing to sell one another for the right price. We have a $32 billion industry that is only continuing to grow. In our capitalist society we will have to make a hard effort to teach our children to value each other more than any amount of money. No price should be high enough for the freedom of another. Yet we, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, have put a price on freedom. Globally, it averages about $90. If we cannot teach them to value the rights of others more than any money, we will create slavers, and we will risk the enslavement of our own families.


However, I do not intend to portray today’s traffickers as nothing but money-hungry villains, nor do I believe them to be so. Things are not so black and white as the ethics of the criminals in Disney movies. We would be fools to say that economic pressures to make money did not drive our sons and daughters to sell each other. But we also cannot use economic difficulties as an excuse for a human selling another human, nor is it always, or even most often, the case. Our welfare system should be more than adequate for our citizens in need, but many are not interested in this when they learn how much money can be made in human trafficking. We also have a large portion of trafficking victims that have been sold by their own family members and this is a much bigger problem than an economic one. When referring to sexual slavery, this has been termed ‘familial pimping’. These situations- in which people are selling people for more money, and in which families are selling their children at all- do not require moral explanation. Economic strains, while they contribute to human trafficking, do not drive it solely. There are deeper issues than a bad economy when any price is acceptable to a parent in place of their child.If our priorities were right, this would not be such a widespread issue.


We would also be foolish to say that all traffickers recognize themselves as such. Many traffickers enter this arena either through the door of drug trafficking or of pornography production. Pornography is not often considered “forced” by traffickers’ standards. But coercion is trafficking–legally and ethically–and the mind control that today’s pimps and slavers have formulated has become incredibly far advanced. Studies have also shown even the use of pornography, much less its industry, have an objectifying affect on its subjects and an addicting affect on its users. The regular use of any kind of pornography- much less the use of the violent or child pornography that has grown so exponentially– physiologically increases the inclination pursue objectified sex, to view minors in a more sexualized perspective, and makes the user more comfortable purchasing sexual services.  


When the money from the drug trade is no longer sufficient, human trafficking is often the next step. The demand is rising and the commodity, unlike the sale of drugs, is reusable. By the time a drug trafficker considers the human slave trade, he has already committed illegal acts and already has contacts and pressures from the black market. Drug trafficking can be a middle stepping stone to make the jump to human slavery much easier. 


Human trafficking manifests itself in different ways in each community, and each different manifestation says something about the mindset that drives slavery in that specific society. Here in the States, we can see the mindset we have that fuels trafficking. We have made pornography socially acceptable and, as it has continued to grow, more violent and directed more at minors. As a result, our youth are more comfortable buying sex, our prostitution and sexual industry have flourished, and with it, the sex slave trade. We have made rape and sexual abuse into something secretive and disgusting with greater consequences for the victim than the rapist. We have watched a rape culture thrive and our pop culture does not hide it. All these have fueled the sex slave trade, which accounts for more than 70% of trafficking in America. We have a black market drug trade that all too easily transfers into the existing slave trade. Our corporations have made profit not only their greatest priority, but, often, their only one and, as such, labor trafficking has also increased greatly in America. 


Slavery is fed by many different things in many different places. There are regions in Africa where a man gains respect by taking a girl’s virginity. In these parts, sexual abuse has worsened to such an extent that a man will sexually abuse a toddler for the purpose of being the first to “claim” it.”. Any increase in sexual abuse, especially abuse that is considered shameful for the victim, feeds a dehumanization of women and children that causes violence within an already growing sex trade to rise. Socially acceptable child marriage, still a problem in so many countries, and child pornography, which is growing rapidly everywhere, can also contribute to progressively younger ages of sex abuse victims and perpetrators. Illiteracy, still affecting many in India, can contribute greatly to debt bondage, when a man is made to believe that his enslavement is legal, even sometimes signing a document that he is told is legally binding, and has no way to confirm or deny what the holder of his debt tells him.


Wherever around the world one is looking, aggressive ignorance of the value of a person fuels all kinds of slavery. Look at your own community and educate yourself on the slavery that exists there. It is there, even if you have to search for it. What feeds the existence of human trafficking in your home and country? Is it violent pornography? Is it socially acceptable rape? Does your community encourage women to be secretive about sexual abuse, or men to brag about it? Is child marriage encouraged? What is greatest form of trafficking where you are- the sex trade, forced labor, domestic servitude, forced marriage? Do men or women disappear after accepting jobs that seem too good to be true or as  the only means they have to pay off a debt? Is trafficking acknowledged where you live? Could people be taken in daylight, or is it secretive and difficult to notice? Educate yourself. Fight slavery by fighting the societal factors that encourage it. Raise your children to value life, and freedom, more than they value the money they can make by taking it away. Fight it now so that you can later say with confidence that your children will never become slaves nor slavers.

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