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“People need to be outraged”: trafficking now rising across United States

Human trafficking continues to be a silent epidemic across the nation, said Kevin Malone, president and co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking, whose organization runs the nation’s sole accredited safe house for trafficked boys.

“People need to be outraged that this is happening to our boys and girls all over the country, that it is our own boys and girls,” he says. “It’s happening internationally, too, but it’s in our own backyards. It’s our own kids. They are one or two or three degrees of separation away from being somehow connected to this.”

Under the Trump administration, federal agencies partnered with local law enforcement in an unprecedented way. States, Reuters, “President Donald Trump’s government made human trafficking one of its signature issues.” But even before the inauguration of Joe Biden, some were pushing for the effort to abandon sexual trafficking in favor of focusing on trafficking for labor.

The definition of human trafficking is any situation in which someone experiences “force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control,” according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

“We often think of the force, we think of the kidnapping, we think of the movie ‘Taken’ where the girl is kidnapped,” said Micah Washinski, the institute’s COO. “I think most of America thinks human trafficking is happening that way. But that is not primarily where we see our kids being trafficked. It’s mostly through the use of fraud or coercion that comes into play, oftentimes with people that are known to them. So families are victimizing their own children, their own grandchildren through coercion.

“Even adults [who are trafficked] don’t think that they’re useful in any other regard because they’ve been programmed to be used for their bodies as long as they can remember. So now they’re at a place where they’re just resigned to it. They become objectified. So they’re an object, they’re not made in the image of God, they’re viewed as just objects to be used for whatever pleasures or reasons that these manipulators are using.”

According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is a $150 billion a year industry worldwide, and Washinski said the United States is leading the demand. Multiple reports have shown that hundreds of thousands of Americans younger than 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. Statistics shared by the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking show that up to 36 percent of sex-trafficked children in the United States are males, with some studies showing that it’s as much as 50 percent.

“The U.S. is the number one consumer of trafficking victims worldwide,” Washinski said. “So we’re the buyers. We’re the ones that are buying goods and services that are being produced by trafficking victims, by labor trafficking victims, and we’re also buying sex at a rapid rate.”

Since February, 2021, over 1.5 million individuals have crossed the U.S. southern border illegally. Many groups say that number includes tens of thousands who are being trafficked.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice