Human trafficking can be defined as “a crime that involves the exploitation of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.”
The illegal ring of human enslavement primarily for sex acts has been a problem in the United States for quite some time. The popularity of social media combined with the ongoing stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic have only furthered the presence of human trafficking in the country.
Human enslavement has been a rampant problem often stemming from the Midwest, expanding through the rest of the country. The Midwest serves as the epicenter for trafficking endeavors for several reasons. First off, the number of federal interstates that are common make it easier to transport victims. Commerce tends to be high in areas such as St. Louis and Chicago, simplifying the traveling process of victims. The Midwest has, too, been regarded as a safe part of the country, which masks the existence of human exploitation in this part of the country.
Although servitude of humans has great linkage to the Midwest, it has an intense correlation to the Black community, specifically Black woman. According to the FBI, 53% of all children involved in juvenile prostitution arrests are Black.
This linkage stems back to the racism and oppression prevalent in US history, combined with sexualization of people of color. The Center on Poverty and Inequality generated a study to investigate this point, and found that adults generally regarded Black girls as “less innocent and more adult like than white girls.” Black women continue to be targeted, predominantly by white men. A 2012 research study found that about 85% of people who purchased sex online were white men.
These prejudices impact perpetrator motives, as they are statistically more likely to go after Black girls/ women. A two-year review of alleged enslavement occurrences found that 40% of sex trafficking victims were Black women.
The pandemic and the rise of social media, too, has played its factor in the rise of human subjugation. With many individuals suffering from economic and social deficiencies, trafficking systems have grown exponentially. The victims tend to be vulnerable, often children, in search of some form of attention. Victims often are coerced into enslavement with false promises of jobs or stability.
The growing commonness of human trafficking in the US is alarming and must come to a stop. One of the key problems that prevents victims from being identified is that they often do not believe they are victims. Victims cannot comprehend or see what they’re going through to be considered exploitation, as they often form trauma bonds with their abusers, are hidden in plain sight.
Common signs that can help us identify human trafficking:
- Physically appearing malnourished
- Physical injuries
- Avoidance of eye contact, social communication; primarily with law enforcement
- Rehearsed replies in social communication
- Lack of identification documents
- Staying at hotels/motels with older males
- Victims refer to males as boyfriend or “daddy” – street slang for pimp
- Young children serving in family restaurants
- Individual not allowed in public alone, often spoken for
Trafficking cases continue to grow in numbers, with victims regularly becoming younger and younger. A North Carolina woman was recently sentenced to over 19 years in prison for sex trafficking a 13-year-old girl. This NC proceeding provides insight into common patterns that occur in human enslavement circumstances. It highlights the dominance of social media used in trafficking acts, the susceptibility that victims face and how perpetrators are typically somewhat close to victims.
Authorities were made aware of this case on January 1, 2020, when a 23-year-old girl was a believed victim of sex trafficking. They were able to uncover that from December 2 to the 25 of 2019, Simone McIllwain had been sex-trafficking the young girl in the Charlotte area.
The girl met McIllwain through a shared relationship, when McIllwain started advertising the girl online for commercial sex. She arranged that the 13-year-old girl would perform sex acts in her own hotel room, while she obtained segments of the profits.
She pleaded guilty of sex trafficking of a minor in April 2021, when she was placed in federal custody. Now, she has been sentenced to 235 months in federal prison and 20 years of supervised release.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Written By: McKinley Franklin