Human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person for labor, commercial sex, or other service against their will. It victimizes youth and adults, Mississippians and otherwise, who are physically, socially or psychologically vulnerable.
Human trafficking affects 12 to 27 million men, women and children worldwide who are held in slavery. Its victims can be found working in restaurants or homes, on farms or construction sites, or in the sex trade. It is a worldwide problem, but also a local one. Human trafficking is happening in Mississippi, with Mississippians as victims.
Human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for labor services or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion; for the purpose of exploitation, involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. It includes any commercial sex involving a minor. People who are subjected to involuntary servitude are held against their will and forced to work, frequently under the threat of violence to themselves or their families.
Human traffickers prey on those who become disadvantaged – even temporarily – due to age, social abandonment, economic hardship, disasters, emergencies or criminal activity. The demand for cheap labor drives the market for human trafficking victims.
Recognizing Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking could be people you meet, work with, or care for every day. Traffickers use a variety of means to control victims and limit their freedom. Here are signs to look for:
- Lack of identifying documents such as a driver's license or passport. Traffickers seize these from their victims to restrict their freedom of movement and limit their actions.
- Lack of control of their own money. Traffickers withhold or deny wages, and limit access to cash in order to control their victims.
- Signs of physical abuse such as bruises or scars.
- Unusual fearfulness. Victims may be working under threats to themselves, their family, their property or their freedom.
- Unwillingness to communicate or socialize. Victims may be fearful to communicate with their friends, family or authorities.
- Lack of food, sleep or proper care. Victims may be subject to very poor living conditions and treatment.
- Being underage for their work, especially if it involves commercial sex.