What you need to know about modern day slavery in Oregon
Slavery is making a comeback in the United States and Oregon. Adults and children are victims of "owners" who make victims perform forced labor, forced sex acts and child soldiering for a 100% profit for the owner. Today, there are more people in slavery than any other time in human history. The article here presents valuable information on how human slavery manifests here in Oregon. Knowledge is power! Support Oregonian womyn!
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
Trafficking is slavery
Traditionally, slaves were considered non-human property that was bought and sold, moved from place to place without consent, controlled by physical violence, subjected to unlimited sexual use by the master and anyone else they chose, allowed to keep no money or own possessions.
Today, public slave trading blocks have been replaced by cell phones and the internet. Iron shackles have been exchanged for less 'visible' means of force, fraud and coercion.
Tragically, little else of significance has changed for the world's estimated 12 million men, women and children being trafficked into prostitution, pornography, sweatshops, field work, domestic servitude, child soldiering, drug selling, street begging, and even organ selling on a global scale never before seen in history.
Trafficking is a business
With estimated yearly profits averaging 32 billion dollars, human trafficking reigns as the world's second largest, fastest growing criminal industry - and for good reason. Those who traffic in illegal drugs and guns can sell their commodities only once. Human beings can be sold over and over again.
In 2007 alone, human slave traders made more money than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined.
The trafficking industry breaks down into labor trafficking and sex trafficking, with significant overlap between the two branches. Labor trafficking victims are often also sexually exploited, and sex traffickers are sometimes prosecuted for labor trafficking due to the fact that they keep all of their victims' earnings. There are key distinctions between the two, however, especially when it comes to profits.
At the high end, labor traffickers have been known to clear $60,000 a year for a single victim. The average is closer to $13,000 per victim per year. In contrast, researchers estimate the average pimp in the United States can make more than $200,000 a year off the sexual trafficking of a single girl.
While global conflict, poverty and inequality play a critical role in creating the trafficking industry's 'raw materials' (vulnerable human beings), it is important to acknowledge that the abundance of potential victims is not the cause behind the crime. Human trafficking exists as a market-based economy dependent on supply and demand that's being driven by the ability to make excessive profits generated at low risk.
Seen in this light, Oregon's persistent reputation as a hub for sex-trafficked minors translates to an illicit business environment being fueled not by the availability of victimized children being sold for sex, but by the steady stream of customers eager to pay the price for youthful, child-like bodies.
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Trafficking is a Network
There is no standard size for a human trafficking operation. Individual families are often found holding a single domestic servant hostage. On a larger scale, loosely organized groups or gangs maintain 'stables' of victims they trade and move from place to place. Most sophisticated are the internationally organized crime syndicates that routinely funnel drugs, guns and/or human slaves along well-established pipelines.
There is no dominant trail that marks the journey of a human trafficking victim. Nearly every country in the world plays a role in the ever-shifting make-up of trafficking's lucrative, underground network.
'Source countries', where victims originate, are often those weakened by war, corruption or natural disasters.
'Transit countries' act as temporary stops on the victims' journey to the country where they will be enslaved.
'Destination countries' must have affluent citizens with enough 'disposable income' to buy the traffickers' 'products', which may account for the growing number of trafficking cases being uncovered in Japan, India, much of Western Europe, and the United States.
Research is underway across the U.S. to better determine the make-up and scale of human trafficking inside this country. What's already clear, however, is Oregon's major role in the lucrative Pacific coast circuit moving trafficking victims up and down the I-5 corridor.
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Trafficking is an American problem
Of the 600,000 to 800,000 victims trafficked across international borders every year, an estimated 17,500 end up swelling the ranks of the exploited inside the United States. The most common countries of origin for these new arrivals include Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.
Furthermore, U.S. citizens account for 25% of the world's child sex tourism (visiting foreign countries for the express purpose of having sex with children). In spite of that, the number one destination for Americans seeking sex with a child is the United States.
On any given day, over 200,000 children inside the United States are at high risk for sexual exploitation, including prostitution, pornography, and stripping. Ninety percent of these children are American citizens. A child's average age of entry into the U.S. sex industry is 12, with children as young as 10 being not uncommon.
Over half of the world's child pornography originates inside America. While sex trafficking in its various forms currently dominates U.S. trafficking statistics, American involvement in human trafficking is clearly not limited to sexual exploitation.
Labor trafficking cases inside the United States have uncovered nannies and domestic servants held hostage inside American homes, as well as abused and unpaid workers inside small businesses such as restaurants, construction sites (particularly if access is denied), nail salons, custodial services, and landscaping crews.
Large-scale businesses involving farm industries, garment factories, food processing plants, and others have also been found harboring labor trafficking victims. Once thought to be a crime restricted to foreign nationals, recent labor trafficking cases inside the U.S. have uncovered American citizens being exploited in agricultural operations, traveling carnivals, pan handling rings, and traveling sales crews. Human trafficking has been reported in all fifty states.
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Trafficking is an Oregon problem
Consider the Ethiopian nanny working nine years without pay for an affluent couple in Salem, Oregon - or the Mexican woman kidnapped by a Mexican man who brought her to Oregon to work his marijuana farm where she endured beatings, stabbings, and sexual assault - or the Portland teenager with broken ribs forced to bark like a dog so her pimp would not kill her.
During the 2008 FBI Operation Innocence Lost campaign to rescue child victims of sex trafficking, Oregon ranked second in the nation for victims recovered - seven victims in a single eight-hour shift.
While it's estimated that one third of the minors being sex trafficked along Portland's 82 Avenue and Sandy Boulevard actually come from nearby Vancouver, Washington, there are not, as yet, accurate numbers attached to the significantly larger internet-driven 'off streets' operations hidden inside underground brothels located in Oregon motel rooms and residential homes.
The costs of human trafficking to Oregon communities in terms of broken lives, lost potential, and human suffering are beyond anyone's ability to count. However, state tax revenues spent in efforts to rescue and restore the lives of these trafficking victims are painfully concrete.
In terms of sex-trafficked minors alone, the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare (DHS) recently measured expenditures of between $35,000 and $200,000 per year for each minor victim identified. Those figures do not include law enforcement intervention, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, Juvenile Justice detention expenses of $300/day, or forensic medical interviews, which can cost as much as $2000.
These numbers affect the lives of every Oregonian when considering the fact that DHS Child Welfare identified eight new cases involving minor victims of sex trafficking in a single 3-month period.
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HUMAN TRAFFICKING is NOT MIGRANT SMUGGLING
Smuggling is ALWAYS transnational and involves a smuggler who's been paid to assist another in the illegal crossing of borders.
Trafficking does NOT require the physical movement of a person.
Smuggling is a relationship that typically ends after the border has been crossed and the smuggler has been paid.
Trafficking involves ongoing exploitation of victims for labor or commercial sex that generates illicit profits for the trafficker.
Smuggling includes those who consent to being smuggled.
Trafficking victims either do NOT consent to their situations, or if they initially consent, that consent is rendered meaningless by the actions of their traffickers.*
*The key distinction between trafficking and smuggling lies in the individual's freedom of choice. A smuggling situation can escalate into a trafficking situation if and when the smuggler sells or 'brokers' the smuggled individual into a condition of servitude, or if the smuggled individual cannot pay the smuggler and is then forced to work off that debt.
Slavery and involuntary servitude are illegal practices in the United States, regardless of original consent.
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Who are the victims?
Trafficking victims worldwide
An estimated 12 million people worldwide are currently being trafficked for forced labor and/or sexual exploitation. Over half of these victims are believed to be children. Together, women and children are thought to make up 80% of all those enslaved.
Advocates who would rescue these victims face a surprisingly daunting task. In parts of the world where traffickers exploit their victims in broad daylight with little impunity, it may mean challenging deeply engrained customs and widespread corruption.
In freedom-loving cultures where trafficking, by necessity, operates as a covert crime, the voiceless, 'invisible' victims silently exist beneath the surface of society. Rescuers quickly learn there is no universal profile to help identify these 'hidden' populations.
Given the right circumstances, anyone - rich, poor, old, young, male, female, rural, urban, citizen, foreign-born, well-educated or uneducated - is sadly vulnerable to becoming enslaved and exploited as a result of the skillful application of force, fraud or coercion.
There are, however, certain populations around the world that do appear particularly at risk of being trafficked, including the poor and oppressed, refugees, undocumented immigrants, runaways, and homeless youth.
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Foreign national trafficking victims
Foreign national trafficking victims are individuals who have been 'obtained' and then transported to another country for purposes of labor and/or sexual exploitation.
Having been stripped of all identity papers and money, cut off from friends and family, unable to speak the local language, and threatened on a daily basis, most foreign national victims are easily intimidated, manipulated and controlled by their traffickers.
Some of these victims will have been originally 'obtained' through kidnapping. Other child victims will have been purchased from desperate parents who likely did not know their sons or daughters were going to be starved, abused, and/or raped before being funneled around the world as child prostitutes, forced laborers, child soldiers, drug-addicted street beggars, or victims of illicit international adoptions and 'early' marriages.
In many cases, however, everyday poverty, illiteracy, oppression and political turmoil will have made it possible for traffickers to simply lure their victims into leaving their home country using nothing more than false promises of good employment and a better life.
Foreign nationals who find themselves enslaved inside the United States do not fall neatly into a single category. Some will have begun their life as a trafficking victim long before being brought to America.
Others will start their new life as a slave following their illegal entry into the U.S., having cooperated unwittingly with the schemes of their traffickers based on the promise of a good job, only to discover the truth after it was too late.
Still other foreign nationals will have entered the United States legally on work or student visas at the invitation of family members or friends already living in America who promised them employment, schooling, family reunification, or a brokered marriage proposal, only to have their trusted sponsors confiscate their passports upon arrival and force them into labor and/or sexual enslavement.
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Domestic trafficking victims
Domestic trafficking victims are citizens or residents being trafficked for purposes of labor and/or sexual exploitation within the borders of their own countries.
The vast majority of America's domestic trafficking victims are being sex trafficked, and the vast majority of these homegrown sex trafficking victims are children.
America's sexually exploited youth are not restricted to any particular race, class or section of the country. However, records do indicate that the majority of those who've been intercepted by law enforcement have come from poor families.
Admittedly, accurate statistics are difficult to compile, as many trafficked children start out as runaways neglected, ejected, or abandoned by families who never even report them as missing.
Unlike the image of foreign-born 'child victims of sex trafficking' who get secreted into the U.S. for exploitation, American youth are not so readily seen as victims. They are not generally kidnapped, sold to traffickers by their family, locked up in brothels, or found chained to a bed.
Consequently, victimized American children have traditionally been seen as 'juvenile prostitutes' willingly selling themselves for easy money and a 'glamorous' lifestyle.
Furthermore, their notoriously angry resentment of those who would rescue them, coupled with relentless loyalty to their pimps, only serves to support the stereotypical image of 'hardened inner city kids' who know exactly what they're getting themselves into and deserve whatever they get.
Thankfully, perceptions are changing, due to the abundance of research deciphering these victims' complex trauma-based, survival-oriented behaviors. (see Love Addiction)
Public awareness also continues to grow regarding the key conditions known to create children more vulnerable to the 'charms' of sex trafficking pimps, such as parental drug and alcohol abuse, physical and verbal abuse, neglect, abandonment, ejection from the home, poverty, and media bombardment glamorizing sex and easy money.
However, no single factor is more clearly documented as a precondition to child prostitution than childhood sexual abuse.
A National Institute of Justice report claims sexually abused children are 28 times more likely to be arrested for prostitution at some point in their lives than peers who did not suffer abuse.
Not surprisingly, 90% of all sexually trafficked children are reported to have a prior history of sexual abuse. When it comes to the central issue facing all state judicial systems regarding 'juvenile prostitutes' - whether to view them as sex trafficked victims under the control of unscrupulous adults, or as willing participants in an illegal activity - the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force exemplifies Oregon's clear commitment to identifying these youth as victims deserving the same compassion and legal protections afforded foreign national children who've been trafficked into the United States for sexual slavery.
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Who are the traffickers?
Transnational human traffickers are modern-day slave traders whose operations span across international borders.
Transnational traffickers operating inside the United States are often in the country legally, may be fluent in English as well as their home language, and usually maintain close contact with their home country where they often have greater social or political status than their victims.
Like their victims, human traffickers can be anyone - husbands, wives, boyfriends, friends, acquaintances, employers, landlords, interpreters, even parents. They may operate individually, such as diplomats or foreign business executives who arrive in the U.S. with family members, friends, or acquaintances functioning as their 'servants' or pimps.
Or they may operate as a 'mom and pop' cottage industry that has extended family 'on both sides of the border' who lure victims by promising a better life in the United States, or by striking up romantic relationships.
On a larger scale, transnational traffickers often function as contractors or agents whose job it is to deliver menial laborers for legitimate businesses such as restaurants, farms, and construction companies.
Others act as international marriage brokers arranging servile marriages. Still others are paid to deliver pawns for illegal enterprises such as begging rings, drug dealing, and prostitution.
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Most of America's homegrown domestic traffickers are sex traffickers, commonly referred to as pimps. Their frequently flamboyant lifestyles are paid for by forcing and coercing women and children to work in strip clubs, massage parlors, escort services, pornography, residential brothels, and street prostitution.
Most U.S. domestic sex traffickers are between 18-45 years old, have a limited education, are unemployed, and have a criminal record, such as gang involvement. They commonly have another family member involved in pimping, and oftentimes have a mother or sister involved in prostitution.
Earlier in their teen years they may have worked as an underage 'wannabe pimp' standing guard over another pimp's girls to make sure they stayed on the job. Some domestic sex traffickers are discovered to be friends or family members who've involved a child in their care in the pornography business or as a prostitute in exchange for cash, rent, or loan payments.
Adept at their shifting roles as lover, 'father', torturer, and savior, domestic sex traffickers are above all ruthless businessmen willing to inflict limitless suffering upon vulnerable men, women, and children in the name of profit.
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How does trafficking work?
From 'vulnerable' to V-I-C-T-I-M
The premeditated methods used by human traffickers to master control over their victims closely mirror those used in domestic violence situations and prisoner of war camps.
Once a suitably vulnerable prey has been identified, whether it's an unskilled worker in Eastern Europe desperate for a job, or a runaway youth on the streets of Portland looking for a friend, a savvy trafficker will likely begin a relationship by validating their victim's unappreciated attributes (beauty, intelligence) and posing as their long-awaited benefactor ready to make their dreams come true.
Once a victim has been lured into joining the trafficker on an adventure toward a new life, they are thrown into a 'seasoning process' lasting days or weeks during which time they may be beaten, starved, raped, and/or confined until they finally relent to go to work in the sex trade, drug trade, or at legitimate jobs where they must turn over all their earnings.
Traffickers exercise strict control over their victims by constantly monitoring their movements, confiscating all identity papers and money, controlling food and shelter, and enforcing a non-negotiable set of rules that result in violence if broken, such as falling short of daily earning quotas, attempting escape, or talking to the wrong person.
Traffickers maintain their control by endlessly threatening to brutalize their victims, or turn them in to police or immigration officials, or shame them by exposing their circumstances to friends and family, or to kill their family members if they try to escape. Such threats keep victims in a constant state of fear and unwillingness to leave.
Traffickers eliminate interference from their victim's family, friends and ethnic communities by cutting off all communications. They further reduce the chances of detection by authorities by moving their victims from house to house, state to state, or country to country. Alone, disoriented, penniless and afraid, victims become completely dependant upon their traffickers for survival and have few opportunities to develop trusting relationships with outsiders who they might ask for help.
Traffickers brainwash their victims with a barrage of false and emotionally confusing messages. Foreign national victims, for instance, who may be unfamiliar with American freedoms, are often told the police are their enemies, and that the traffickers abusing them are, ironically, the only ones who can keep them safe. American pimps will likewise offer their victims a warped form of protection by faithfully promising to free them from jail if and when they are arrested for the prostitution they are being forced to commit. Some pimps insist that their label actually stands for 'Power In Manipulating People.'
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