Blog 4: Efforts to Combat Sex Trafficking in the U.S. and Resources for Victims
By Caleigh McDonough, cmm6dx
In previous blogs, I address background information on human trafficking and its scope, recruitment tactics, recent trends, and risk factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking such as recent migration and substance use. I now will provide information on current anti-trafficking legislation, community and law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking, and resources for victims.
Regarding current policy initiatives to combat human trafficking in the U.S., the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 established the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This initiative aimed to enhance coordination among U.S. Federal government agencies in their anti-trafficking efforts (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). It also increased federal penalties and victim services to address this growing social and crime problem (Copley). Various factors complicate the effectiveness of a legal approach. For instance, an undocumented immigrant might be unable to seek protection by the law based on her legal status, or the manipulative nature of many relationships between traffickers and victims might deter them from speaking out and seeking help.
Public and private groups work to combat human trafficking by raising awareness about its prevalence as an issue and by providing information to strengthen against vulnerabilities. Information campaigns inform the public on indicators of human trafficking and increase awareness, in a preventative effort to address this issue. Polaris is a nonprofit NGO that works to combat and prevent human trafficking in North America (Polaris). Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, which connects callers with local anti-trafficking resources, trainings, and general information. It is equipped to handle calls from potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers (U.S. Department of State).
It is imperative to connect sex trafficking victims with recovery resources to prevent them from falling back into trafficking. Tragically, 40% of victims identified by the police (2013-2017) who were removed from the trade (reunited with families or relocated to live elsewhere) slipped back into sex trafficking for a variety of reasons, many which are often tied to the same factors that caused the victim to be vulnerable in the first place. Trafficking victims who are able to recover often take many months or years of counseling and emotional support to regain their autonomy and self-confidence (Gill and Swanson). Supporting victims during this period by connecting them with recovery resources is incredibly important.
Copley, Lauren (2014). Uncovering Latino Sex Trafficking in a New Destination Area: A Case Study. PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2014. https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_graddiss/2813
Gill, Wallicia and Brad Swanson (2018). Special Report: The reality of teen sex trafficking in Northern Virginia. The BlueView. Retrieved from http://blueview.org/2018/08/15/special-report-the-reality-of-teen-sex-trafficking-in-northern-virginia/
Polaris. About Us. Polaris. Retrieved from https://polarisproject.org/about-us/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Federal Government Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip/resources/federal-efforts
U.S. Department of State (2017). Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/identify-and-assist-a-trafficking-victim/