Anti-Trafficking Enforcement in U.S. is an Abysmal Failure

It’s been over a decade since the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was passed into law, and a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that astonishingly little has been done since.

The TVPA defines a human trafficking victim as

A person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion [and] any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act.

According to the report [PDF], federal task forces funded by the TVPA opened only 2,515 investigations of suspected incidents of human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010, leading to 144 arrests so far.

So how does this relate to numbers of people actually trafficked in the U.S.? That’s a surprisingly tough question. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to get firm statistics on modern-day slavery due to vast underreporting, the covert nature of the crime and the tendency to criminalize, rather than recognize, victims of sex slavery (even when they are children). Part of the problem is the misnomer “trafficking,” which inaccurately suggests that victims have to come from other countries. In fact, the term trafficking applies to any coerced sex or labor, including all prostituted children.

Moreover, as anti-trafficking organization the Polaris Project points out, clear numbers for the U.S. are particularly lacking. The Department of Justice estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked from other countries, but has no firm estimates on those trafficked within U.S. borders.

I suspect that U.S. citizens and policy-makers have a hard time imagining that modern-day slavery is prevalent in our country, and an even harder time understanding that the vast majority of trafficking victims here are U.S. citizens. The State Department estimates that of the world’s 27 million trafficking victims, about 100,000 live in the U.S. In contrast, the Polaris Project estimates that there are 100,000 cases of child sex trafficking alone in the U.S. each year.

Even if we use the State Department’s 100,000 figure, this means investigations were opened on only 2.5 percent of human trafficking cases. Even assuming that one case represents multiple victims, it is clear that federal efforts to address human trafficking in the U.S. are simply not effective.

However, our anemic efforts to combat trafficking in the U.S. do not stop us from pointing the finger at other countries. The State Department’s just-released 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, which evaluates worldwide efforts to fight modern-day slavery, began including the U.S. only last year. And that was thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said:

One of the innovations when I became Secretary was we were going to also analyze and rank ourselves, because I don’t think it’s fair for us to rank others if we don’t look hard at who we are and what we’re doing.

So where does the U.S. rank?

The State Department uses a three-tier system. Tier 1 countries are in full compliance with the TVPA, Tier 2 countries are making “significant efforts” to comply and Tier 3 countries are making no efforts whatsoever. The U.S. is predictably ranked as Tier 1, which begs the question: How accurate is this rating system if a 2.5 percent prosecution rate gets us to the top?

The State Department’s ranking system misleads the public by focusing on purported efforts instead of actual outcomes. It has also been criticized for ranking China higher than deserved, and for lumping countries together with dissimilar records. The U.S. could standardize its rankings and avoid the latter criticism if it published national trafficking-prosecution rates–but that would expose the fallacy of U.S. superiority in efforts to combat trafficking.

State Department representative Luis CdeBaca defended the annual rankings, saying [PDF] such reports “can mean telling friends truths they may not want to hear.” I hope the State Department doesn’t mind some friendly truth-telling: Federal efforts to address human trafficking in the U.S. are an abysmal failure.

Photo from Flickr user Women’s eNews under Creative Commons 2.0

BOTTOM: Map of human trafficking

Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. I am often so frustrated by the difference between what is said and what is actually done. I spend most of my day helping victims of trafficking to be released from jail. I would like to start tracking the number of human trafficking victims arrested and detained in the United States. You would be surprised—

  2. If we as a society put as much emphasis on each other as we do sport stadiums society would vastly improve. While Jaycee Dugard languished in that hell hole of a backyard – a number of sporting arenas were built. Those who should have been looking out for her, protecting us from that perp were and are underpaid and seeking better work benefits.

  3. There is a lot of controversy over the numbers of adult woman who are forced sex slaves. The real factual answer is that no one knows. There is hard evidence that the sex slavery/sex trafficking issue continues to report false information and is greatly exaggerated by politicians, the media, and aid groups, feminist and religious organizations that receive funds from the government, The estimate of adult women who become new sex slaves ranges anywhere from 40 million a year to 5,000 per year all of which appear to be much too high. They have no evidence to back up these numbers, and no one questions them about it. Their sources have no sources, and are made up numbers. In fact if some of these numbers are to believed which have either not changed or have been increased each year for the past twenty years, all woman on earth would currently be sex slaves. Yet, very few real forced against their will sex slaves have been found.

    It is not easy for criminals to engage in Sex Trafficking activity:

    Sex trafficking is illegal and the penalties are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well. They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police.

    This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare.

    http://sextraffickingtruths.blogspot.com/

    http://bebopper76.wordpress.com

    http://sextraffickingvictims.blog.com/

  4. Many women in the sex business are independent workers. They don’t have a pimp.

    They work for themselves, advertise themselves, and keep all the money for themselves. No one forces them, because there isn’t anyone to force them. They go out and find their own customers, set their own prices, and arrange everything by themselves. Sometimes they may employ others to help them, but these are not pimps. If for example, she hires an Internet web design company to make a website for her, does that make the web design company a pimp? If she pays a phone company for a phone to do business, does this make the phone company a pimp? If she puts an ad in the paper, does this make the editor a pimp? If she puts the money she makes into a bank account does this make the bank a pimp?]

    http://bebopper76.wordpress.com/

    A lot of anti prostitution groups would say yes. Everyone and everybody is a pimp.

    These groups make up lies, and false statistics that no one bothers to check. A big reason they do this is because it provides high paying jobs for them. They get big donations, and grants from the government, charity, churches, etc. to have these groups, and pay these high salaries of the anti prostitution workers.

  5. According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.

    WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM?????

    WHERE ARE THE THOUSANDS OF SUPER BOWL KIDNAPPED FORCED CHILD SEX SLAVES???????

    Politicians, women’s groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

    It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Future Not A Past, Polaris Project, Salvation Army, Women’s Funding Network, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations. As proved in the links below:

    Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

    “Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.

    “In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/super-bowl/local

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/prostitution/Juvenile_Pro

    http://the-myth-of-sex-trafficking.weebly.com/

  6. Sex Trafficking/Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims.

    This is done by the media, aid groups, NGO’s, feminists, politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims. They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult sex worker. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing. These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advange of these “helpless foreign women wives”.

    These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.

    This is an example of feminists and other groups exploiting the suffering of a small minority of vulnerable and abused women in order to further their own collective interests. For example, getting money from the government and Charity into their organizations. Rather than wanting to find the truth.

    http://sextraffickingfactsmyths.wordpress.com/

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