I recently attended a human trafficking conference, and I was appalled to learn that this heinous crime is occurring in our region. Children and vulnerable adults are being groomed, coerced, manipulated, threatened, and exploited for profit. One speaker emphasized that while drugs can only be sold and consumed once, humans can be sold multiple times, making them a profitable commodity. Throughout history, various cultures, tribes, and nations have enslaved others, whether through slavery, serfdom, or caste systems.
Early in my career, my boss told me that people are always motivated by three things: money, power, and sex. Unfortunately, this rings true when it comes to human trafficking. Young people are particularly at risk of being groomed over the internet with promises of a better job, a new friend, or a sense of self-worth, only to be later exploited and trafficked.
Traffickers use tactics such as guilt, coercion, shame, manipulation, threats, and physical abuse to control their victims. They may initially treat their victims like royalty, buying them gifts and making promises. However, this is simply a means to break them down so that they will accept their dire situation. These victims are trafficked along the 401 corridor, typically traveling by rental car. Young ladies may be seated in the back and appear undernourished. Often, the pimps get them addicted to drugs, adding to their control over them. It’s important to note that the word “addict” means “slave.”
There are two types of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labour trafficking. Labour trafficking involves forcing someone to work and buy from a specific store to remain in debt. The threat of calling immigration, hurting their family, or withholding their identity papers is often used to maintain control. Sex trafficking, while similar in some ways, involves stages of exploitation, including luring with promises, grooming during the honeymoon stage, coercion and manipulation with mind games and emotional manipulation, entrenched exploitation, and recruitment into the “wifey” stage. (paraphrased from “The Memoirs of a Survivor”)
It’s crucial to raise awareness of human trafficking and to take action to stop this horrendous crime. We must all do our part to protect vulnerable individuals from exploitation and abuse.