This year, as we observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30), it is important to recognize that child trafficking is an epidemic across the globe, including all 50 U.S. states. Child trafficking can, and frequently does, occur within the borders of a single country. In order to end child trafficking, It’s urgently important to define the term correctly. Child trafficking is the buying and selling of kids under the age of 18 for the purpose of exploitation in which the exploitation is induced by force, fraud or coercion.
It is a pandemic plaguing almost every nation in the world.
Child trafficking is a pandemic plaguing almost every nation in the world
The recognition that not all human trafficking hinges on transporting victims between countries is imperative in creating a better awareness of what trafficking is. The recognition of domestic trafficking within the United States will allow for better report rates, prevention and rehabilitation for those who have been trafficked.
According to the U.S. Department of State 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, 77 percent of trafficking victims are exploited within their country of residence.
Many people believe that trafficking only involves victims who have been bought, sold and transported in illegal or underground industries as opposed to more nuanced versions of trafficking that take place in service industries like restaurants and cleaning services. This perception creates a false reality and alters the public understanding of the issue.
77 percent of trafficking victims are exploited within their country of residence
There is a common misconception that the majority of people being trafficked in the United States are undocumented immigrants. In reality, trafficking within the United States is happening largely to our very own citizens. According to Polaris, 1 in 7 of children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children became victims of sexual trafficking. Of this amount, 88 percent were coming out of the foster care system.
The recent accusations against Jeffrey Epstein are opening up the conversation on domestic child trafficking. Epstein’s case is unique not in its details but instead in the amount of news coverage it is receiving. Though trafficking stories may seldom reach the front page, unfortunately, cases of powerful individuals exploiting the vulnerable for sex are all too common. The Human Trafficking Hotline’s national statistics report showed that 66 percent of those trafficked were coerced through the methods of isolation, emotional abuse or economic abuse.
1 in 7 children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children became victims of sexual trafficking
While trauma-informed and victim-centered resources exist for those who have been harmed by child trafficking, these resources won't reach all the survivors unless the public is alerted to various forms of trafficking. Progress on this issue has been made through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a UNICEF USA-supported law that was first passed in Congress in 2000 and has since been reauthorized multiple times. The most recent reauthorization puts emphasis on the exploitation of the victim and has no requirements regarding the victim’s movement from one place to another. UNICEF USA’s support of this legislation is based on the conviction that all children have the right to grow up in a safe and healthy family environment, free from violence, exploitation and abuse.
All children have the right to grow up in a safe and healthy family environment, free from violence, exploitation and abuse
As we continue to move forward in our examination and prevention of human trafficking, there must be a greater awareness of all the environments and contexts in which it takes place. In creating a public consciousness, it is important to consider that trafficking happens not only in low-income or middle-income countries, but also among the wealthy and powerful in the United States. Considering the full scope of human trafficking will open new options for prevention, response and support.
The top priority in UNICEF’s End Trafficking initiative is strengthening child protection systems and promoting positive social norms in all contexts — development and emergency — to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse directed at children.
You can be part of the solution. Take Action today in the following ways:
- Send an email to your local elected officials urging them to keep traffickers and trafficking victims top of mind
- Join UNICEF UNITE
- Become a monthly donor
Top photo: Promised a job as a housekeeper, this teenager was forced into sex work in Kazakhstan. She escaped and found refuge in a UNICEF-supported center for abused and trafficked children in Almaty. © UNICEF/UN045727/Pirozzi