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Modern Day Slavery in the United States

Essay by   •  April 22, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,763 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,700 Views

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Modern Day Slavery in the United States

The United States of America, the land of the free, is now a home to human trafficking. According to the 10th Annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, the United States has ranked within the 117 other countries that make the report every year (Clinton, 2010). Human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery, has become an ever-increasing problem all around the world. It wasn't until just recently, however that the United States chose to be recognized as part of the problem. Considering that human trafficking ranks third on the list of underground criminal trade, it seems like now more then ever the United States needs to be raising awareness on the matter.

Human trafficking is defined as the harboring and transportation of people, by use of force, abduction or fraud, and the receiving of payment for the control over that person (Trafficking Victims Protections Act of 2000, p. 4). It is important not to confuse human trafficking with those who are involved with people smuggling, as soon as someone is being forced against their will, this migration becomes trafficking. Victims of the trade can be male, female or children, but majority of the cases are females who are under the age of eighteen. Although they are most often taken for sexual exploitation, there are those who are used labor, servitude, and the harvesting of organs as well. These traffickers will use brute force, physical and mental degradation, gang rape, weapons and narcotics in order to condition their victims who try to escape or who create any problems (Estes & Weiner, 2002, p. 10). These people face very serious health risks while they are held captive and are exposed to STD's and other diseases while the psychological effects happen simultaneously.

There are a few ways that people fall victim to the human trade. Thousands of people from foreign countries are promised a new and better life in America. They are told that they will owe around $5,000 to get them there. Once in America their identification is destroyed and they are told that their debt has been increased to around $30,000. This is known as debt bondage (TRPA, 2000). At this point, the traffickers will use any means necessary to make people comply. Other patterns of entrapment have been noticed since this problem has grown: false marriage proposals turned into bondage situations, poverty stricken families will sell their children or wives, and others will abduct just about any kid they can find.

The common misconception about the sex trade is that it is happening often in other places such as Europe, Asia and Australia, but not so much where we live. However the United States is a source, transit and destination for trafficking and has been for centuries now. Our ignorance on this subject has caused a lack of research and common knowledge that is necessary for everyone's safety. The fact of the matter is that anyone could be the next victim of modern day slavery. No one wants to think that it could be them or someone they know, but it is becoming more apparent that not knowing about the subject can be more detrimental to our health then the grueling and depressing realities of this epidemic. For example,

A typical 16-year-old in a middle-class home in suburban Pensacola, Fla., Newell's nightmare began innocently enough: A new friend she had met in high school asked her to come to her home for a sleepover....The water had been laced with a drug. When she woke up, Newell was groggy and couldn't move...."My legs were being held down, and the guy that was raping me was holding my hands back," she said in a quiet voice. "I kept screaming, 'Stop, please don't do this. Leave me alone.' But I was so weak, I couldn't fight them off. And I blacked out a few times and I kept coming back to. And I was still being raped every time I woke up." (Newell, 2010)

It is hard to read about something as tragic as this happening to a 16 year-old girl, however this family was lucky: lucky that they were able to find their daughter before she was sold to a man in Texas for $300,000. The reality of the situation is that some families and individuals are not as fortunate as she was, some are never found.

Unfortunately, all of this is happening right under our noses. It is very difficult to know exactly who is doing the trading, where they are coming from and how they are able to continue to do this in the United States. It is estimated that around 14,500 to 17,500 people are brought into the United States every year (TIP, 2006). Most traffickers in the business set up "fronts", meaning that they pretend to run a clean business on the outside in their attempt to throw off the authorities. The most common form of this is the massage parlor, which is essentially the American form of a brothel (Butts, 2010). Not only is the United States a destination for traffickers, but also like the 16-year-old girl in the story, it has become a source of victims. Men, woman and children in the US are all possible candidates for the sex trade, because unlike other third world countries, most U.S. residents aren't deprived enough to be bribed to travel to a foreign country, therefore traffickers are relying on abduction, making all vulnerable to a trafficker.

Internationally, various "counter-trafficking measures" have been taken. However, little has been done in the U.S. to combat human trafficking until recently. Feminist in the '70's attempted to bring this problem to light, but were powerless compared to the sex industry. It wasn't until the 90's that the United

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