At any given moment, it is estimated between 4 and 27 million people are in forced labor, including sexual exploitation, situations due to human trafficking.
In Dec. of 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment promised permanent abolition of slavery throughout the United States.
Now, nearly 150 years later, human ownership is an issue sparse in the minds of many Americans. However, slavery does still exist, and it’s going on in our own back yards.
“I’m sure that sex trafficking is happening in Boise and in Idaho,” said Annie Kerrick, an attorney with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. “But we’re failing to identify it, so people need to know what sex trafficking looks like so we can start identifying those cases
This past June, a Craigslist ad soliciting the sexual favors of a three-year-old girl led the Ada County Sherriff’s Department to hold a Boise man on felony charges of lewd conduct and soliciting a minor for prostitution. Evidence of sexual contact between the toddler and 39-year-old man was also found.
While human sex trafficking in the United States is, in common knowledge, associated with international individuals being victimized, Kerrick pointed to the fact that immigrants, legal or illegal, are not the only ones exploited.
“A lot of the youth, especially the young girls that we are seeing trafficked, are girls that are from the United States,” Kerrick said. “The initial focus when I started working in this area five years ago was on international trafficking, but now we realize that a lot of trafficking is happening domestically with runaways or at-risk youth.”
As this topic of human sex trafficking is beginning to register as a hot button issue within the United States, self-proclaimed modern-day abolitionist Lance Moore, senior communication major with a dual minor in leadership studies and political science, has decided to dedicate his professional life to the cause. Moore serves as president of International Justice Mission’s (IJM) Boise State chapter.
“Basically our goal is to raise awareness for human trafficking in general,” Moore said. “It is a billion dollar industry around the world including the United States. How can I, as a human being in general, sit and live in a happy and comfortable lifestyle when I know there are things like this that should not exist, but still exist in this world.”
According to UN.Gift, a global initiative to fight human trafficking, the majority of trafficking victims are between the ages of 18 and 24.
An estimated 1 million victims a year are children. Based on data taken in select European countries, 95 percent of human trafficking victims are subject to physical or sexual violence and 43 percent of victims are used for forced commercial sexual
“No one knows about it because it’s not presented and it is pushed under the rug in our community,” Moore said. “I think it is something that needs to be addressed because it is a reality weather we like it or not.”
Raising awareness throughout the community and within law enforcement, prosecution and assistance programs is the next step to bringing the issue of sex trafficking to the foreground of public understanding.
Polaris project, one of the leading organizations in the fight against human trafficking, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs.
“It happens in so many forms, so if you are looking for it, what are you looking for?” Peake asked. “A couple of the things Polaris project really points out is to call for help if someone you know is being forced to have sex against his or her will or has had his or her ID or documents taken away.”
Moore is working to raise awareness on campus with the help of Celeste Conrad, senior political science major and vice president of IJM’s Boise State chapter, along with other members of the organization.
“When you hear about slavery, to me I think people are so detached from it because it is not obvious, it is not in your face,” Conrad said. “People can’t associate with it. I could never imagine being a sex slave, you can’t think about it, it’s not fathomable.”
To bring this topic closer to the campus, IJM’s goal have been personalizing the issue, focusing on the fact human sex trafficking can and does happen within our community.
Victims of human sex trafficking can be not only people students know, but students
“You really have to put it in their face and present it to them as what it is,” Conrad said. “At the collegiate level, when students’ minds are blossoming, they have all of the possibilities and potential right in front of them. This is the time for them to decide what they want to do. Lance made the decision where he wants to dedicate his life to it. I’m not saying make that decision, but know about it and while your mind is blooming just think about this and how you can play a small role.”
Moore said he attributes some of the lack of awareness on this topic to the apathetic attitudes and mentalities of many people who refuse to accept the reality of human sex trafficking, and believe if they don’t address the issue, it will go away.
“Be open to the uncomfortability of it; have that openness and willingness to listen. A lot of people just don’t take it in. Being vulnerable to something that may be uncomfortable is best,” Moore said. “The fact that this could be a sister, a cousin, a mother, a daughter or son, I think this is why I keep wanting to solidify this and push forward that this is a human issue and something I am always going to fight against.”
Warning signs for victims of trafficking:
Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid