The commercialization of people is more common than you might think. Globally, sex trafficking networks move around 100 billion dollars a year, a figure that is only surpassed by the illicit business of drugs and weapons. But in this case, human beings who must please others without being able to decide are the product for sale.
Since 2000, the crime of human trafficking has become more relevant, and the international legal framework has been tightened to prevent an increase in cases, forcing government agencies in all countries to rethink their approach to the problem. Knowing more about sexual exploitation and recognizing the factors that affect these environments allows establishing interventions that are more in line with the needs of the victims. In many cases, people who are commercialized are also criminalized.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in Fact Sheet 36, refers to people trafficking as: “the process by which an individual is subjected to and maintained in a situation of exploitation for financial gain. Trafficking may take place within a country or involve cross-border movement.” This is an updated form of slavery, in which human beings are treated as objects that produce profit but have no control over their decisions and are subjected to demeaning treatment.
80% of the victims were born and raised in the United States
When we think of victims, we may assume that they are African women, or women from a developing continent, living in impoverished and insecure countries. But as the OHCHR report notes, trafficking does not necessarily involve cross-border movement, and while there is evidence of trafficking globally, in the United States it is not the most common form of sexual exploitation. The U.S. Department of Justice states that more than 80% of trafficking victims were born and raised in the United States. The problem is not found outside, it does not come from far away, it is really embedded in the root of the population and the consequences are also lived inside.
Testimonies of women who were trafficked with
In the BBC documentary, How I Survived Sex Trafficking in the United States, Susie, a survivor, tells her story, which shows how the aggressive and sexually abusive environment led her to fall into a hell, as she calls it. During her childhood, she was physically, sexually and psychologically abused by people in her family, even before she was 5 years old. She went through countless difficulties and at the age of 15 decided to live with her mother for the first time, a decision she recognizes as the worst of her life. “I just wanted to be normal, I wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to have a life, I wanted a family and I feel like I was robbed of that from a very young age, I never had that opportunity.” By giving a face to the millions of victims who are abused around the world, it is easy to think that with better opportunities, all women like Susie would not have gone through that path of suffering.
Faced with the lack of affection and dignity, many girls find in their pimps a refuge that offers protection and affection, the home they never had, even if it is mediated by beatings, rape, and humiliation. Under this context, women comply with the orders of those they believe to be their partners and end up in prison, as was the case of Susie, a girl who was arrested for drug possession while she was “working” for her pimp.
There is a judicial program that helps victims to be reborn
The re-victimization of survivors is a constantly recurring issue, and victims find themselves cornered, with no way out of the world that consumes them. But conditions can sometimes improve. In Columbus, Ohio, Judge Paul Herbert understood the reasons that led some women to be charged with prostitution and drug trafficking, so he decided to rethink the judicial intervention that was carried out with them and thus initiated the CATCH program, which recognizes that these women lived situations of oppression and subjugation by trafficking networks that exploited them, but through psychosocial support they can rebuild their emotional environments to become productive people.
This position presents a comprehensive picture to reconstruct the spaces in which these women have been violated. The program begins in court when Judge Herbert admits the women according to their profile. Assuming economic independence can be a difficult job, which is why they get a job with the help of the program. Accompaniment is provided by other women who have lived through the same process as well as by tutors who are in charge of helping them heal in the psychosocial area.
The purpose of initiatives such as this one is to detect and remedy discriminatory practices that have allowed those responsible for human trafficking chains to continue to go unpunished while those who suffer the legal consequences are the women who are used as objects of commerce. There are still many actions to be implemented, but programs like CATCH give hope to the victims. In #YoDigoNoMás, we make initiatives like this one visible to show that survivors are not alone, and together we can raise our voices and eradicate abuse against women and sexual violence.
You can be part of the change, join this movement on behalf of yourself or hundreds of victims who have not been able to find their voice to speak out against this scourge.
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