Thanks in part to the widespread use of connective technology, it seems that almost daily we run across a viral Facebook post detailing an attempted kidnapping in a public place or news coverage of a young teenager’s disappearance in which human trafficking is cited as a possible explanation. While most of us would agree that increased awareness is a good thing, parents of young kids and teens may struggle with feelings of fear and helplessness as a result of this cascade of information.
History teaches that the practice of capturing and exploiting people for forced labor, sexual slavery, or other human rights violations (collectively known as human trafficking) is nothing new. What’s new to most Americans is the realization that human trafficking has been happening right under our noses for years, and that many of our “runaways” or unexplained disappearances may have a much more sinister explanation.
Unfortunately, hard facts about human trafficking are tough to find. Many victims are not visible to the general public, aren’t recognized even when they’re seen, or had already “slipped through the cracks” of the system before they were exploited. They may also feel trapped in human trafficking schemes by their fear of the perpetrators, distrust of law enforcement, or a perception that they have consented to their involvement. These issues make it difficult to collect accurate statistics on just how many places and people are affected, even for agencies whose sole purpose is to study human trafficking.