Human trafficking: breaking out of stigmatization

The FBI has identified the Twin Cities as being of the 13 cities in the United States with a particularly high rate of child prostitution due to human trafficking. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, in 2015, Minnesota had the third most human trafficking cases in the country. Most human trafficking is unseen by the public and authorities, leading to minimal information being widely known about the problem.

“It isn’t talked about as much as I think it should be. It’s talked about when big things happen, but otherwise it’s something that is just there but rarely mentioned,” HerSpace member  Sevy Hayes said.

Human trafficking is the use of fraud, force, or coercion in order to forcibly obtain some sort of act, typically having to do with labor or sex. The two main categories of human trafficking are labor and sex trafficking, and sub categories such as domestic work, agriculture, and pornography. In 2018, out of the 10,949 trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 7,859 were placed under the sex trafficking category. Almost 70 percent of the cases reported involved female-identifying victims.

“It is really scary to think that out of every 10 victims, seven of them are women, and that it is possible to know these people without knowing that they are victims. Overall, these statistics about human trafficking show how big a problem trafficking is, and how dangerous it can be to everyone, and to certain, more specific groups,” senior Henrik Schleisman said.

According to the Global Slavery Index, around 40 million people globally were victims on any day in 2016. This number includes cases such as sex and labor trafficking, forced marriages, unauthorized organ harvesting, and army recruitment of children.

At places like the Mall of America, it is common for security officers to walk customers to their car, especially when it is dark, because the human trafficking industry targets large and busy places like malls. There are over 175 trained security officers at the mall, working towards everyone’s safety.

We should be talking about [human trafficking] from a younger age, so there is more awareness.”

— Ruby Hoeschen

“We should be talking about [human trafficking] from a younger age, so there is more awareness. For example, when I went to the mall when I was younger, I didn’t know it was a place where a lot of trafficking happens. I was never taught how to be safe, and I am just lucky that I personally have never been put into a position of danger at the mall, and I know many others have. After finding out that it is a dangerous place, especially for women with trafficking, I definitely go to the mall to shop with more caution, and make sure to never be alone,” junior Ruby Hoeschen said.

Senior Tina Wilkens works at Mall of America, and has had interactions with the mall security, but very rarely for human trafficking issues.

“I look sort of young, so sometimes the security will ask me for ID when it’s after 4 p.m. on Fridays or Saturdays, because of the rule. I just show them my ID to show them I’m older than 16, and it’s fine. They seem to very rarely stop people for safety reasons, it’s usually just for identification, so it doesn’t have much to do with human trafficking,” Wilkens said.

Action towards preventing and educating on human trafficking has been increasing. Places like the National Human Trafficking Hotline support victims by connecting them with services to get help. The hotline also provides a contact for people to give information about potentially dangerous situations, which they then report to the corresponding authorities.

The End It Movement, created in 2012, is an allied group of organizations and people around the world fighting for increased awareness and prevention of human trafficking to bring the number of victims down to zero. On Feb. 13, the End It Movement encourages people to draw a red x on their hand in support of the movement.

This story was originally printed in the February print issue of The Rubicon.