The U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education,
supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy in an effort to eradicate modern-day slavery.
The 'Stop Trafficking' newsletter is an educational service of the USCSAHT and serves as a forum to further awareness, advocacy and action within the anti human trafficking community. However, the USCSAHT does not endorse organizations or activities featured, unless specifically stated.
Background on Human Trafficking:
Conditions that define human trafficking
(One element in each category is sufficient to indicate a condition of enslavement or human trafficking.)
Victims are generally trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Many victims trafficked into the United States do not speak and understand English and are therefore isolated and unable to communicate with service providers, law enforcement and others who might be able to help them.
How Victims Are Trafficked
Many victims of trafficking are exploited for purposes of commercial sex, including prostitution, stripping, pornography and live-sex shows. However, trafficking also takes place as labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, or migrant agricultural work. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel women, men and children to engage in these activities.
Force involves the use of rape, beatings and confinement to control victims. Forceful violence is used especially during the early stages of victimization, known as the ‘seasoning process’, which is used to break victim’s resistance to make them easier to control.
Fraud often involves false offers that induce people into trafficking situations. For example, women and children will reply to advertisements promising jobs as waitresses, maids and dancers in other countries and are then trafficked for purposes of prostitution once they arrive at their destinations.
Coercion involves threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint of, any person; any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.
Victims of trafficking are forced into various forms of commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography, stripping, live-sex shows, mail-order brides, military prostitution and sex tourism.
Victims trafficked into prostitution and pornography are usually involved in the most exploitive forms of commercial sex operations. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible venues such as street prostitution, as well as more underground systems such as closed-brothels that operate out of residential homes. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography.
Victims of sex trafficking can be women or men, girls or boys, but the majority are women and girls. There are a number of common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking, including:
• A promise of a good job in another country
• A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
• Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
• Being kidnapped by traffickers
Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to debt-bondage, an illegal practice in which the traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services to repay the debt.
Sex traffickers use a variety of methods to “condition” their victims including starvation, confinement, beatings, physical abuse, rape, gang rape, threats of violence to the victims and the victims’ families, forced drug use and the threat of shaming their victims by revealing their activities to their family and their families’ friends.
Victims face numerous health risks. Physical risks include drug and alcohol addiction; physical injuries (broken bones, concussions, burns, vaginal/anal tearings); traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in memory loss, dizziness, headaches, numbness; sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, UTIs, pubic lice); sterility, miscarriages, menstrual problems; other diseases (e.g., TB, hepatitis, malaria, pneumonia); and forced or coerced abortions.
Psychological harms include mind/body separation/disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, hatred of men, self-hatred, suicide, and suicidal thoughts. Victims are at risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical hyper-alertness, self-loathing that is long-lasting and resistant to change (complex-PTSD).
Victims may also suffer from traumatic bonding – a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live.
European red light district.
Women and girls are exploited
in the commercial sex industry.
Haitian 14-year old.
She works as a domestic slave
and is also used for prostitution.
There are several forms of exploitative practices linked to labor trafficking, including bonded labor, forced labor and child labor.
Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money “borrowed.”
The photo shows bonded Burmese laborers in Thailand.
Victims of labor trafficking are not a homogeneous group of people. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women. Some of them enter the country legally on worker visas for domestic, “entertainment,” computer and agricultural work, while others enter illegally. Some work in legal occupations such as domestic, factory or construction work, while others toil in illegal industries such as the drug and arms trade or panhandling. Although there is no single way to identify victims of labor trafficking, some common patterns include:
• Victims are often kept isolated to prevent them from getting help. Their activities are restricted and are typically watched, escorted or guarded by associates of traffickers. Traffickers may “coach” them to answer questions with a cover story about being a student or tourist.
• Victims may be blackmailed by traffickers using the victims’ status as an undocumented alien or their participation in an “illegal” industry. By threatening to report them to law enforcement or immigration officials, traffickers keep victims compliant.
• People who are trafficked often come from unstable and economically devastated places as traffickers frequently identify vulnerable populations characterized by oppression, high rates of illiteracy, little social mobility and few economic opportunities.
• Women and children are overwhelmingly trafficked in labor arenas due to their relative lack of power, social marginalization, and overall inferior status as compared to men.
A Chinese sweatshop
sewing for the garment industry in the U. S.
Forced labor is a situation in which victims are forced to work against their own will, under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is exerted. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.
Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the health and/or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade and other illicit activities around the world. Frequent sources of child trafficking include the Pacific Islands, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa as well as developing countries
Forced labor exposes victims of labor trafficking to physical abuse such as scars, headaches, hearing loss, cardiovascular/respiratory problems, and limb amputation. Victims of labor trafficking may also develop chronic back, visual and respiratory problems from working in agriculture, construction or manufacturing under dangerous conditions.
Child victims of labor trafficking are often malnourished to the extent that they may never reach their full height, they may have poorly formed or rotting teeth, and later they may experience reproductive problems.
Examples of Child Labor Throughout the World
Child in Thailand working to collect garbage Child working in a stone quarry in Nepal. Indian rug weavers.
from a river for his employer. (ILO Photo.) (ILO Photo.)
Niger indentured child working for
Street beggar. the family that owns his family.
Child soldier in Dem Rep. of Congo.
Child working in goldmine in Peru.
These photos are available at the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Office.
(Credit: Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department)