We often think of human trafficking as a problem in other countries. The reality is it is a huge problem everywhere – including in North America. The United States Department of State estimates that there are nearly 25 million victims of human trafficking in America. This includes adults, teenagers, and even children. On August 15, the FBI released a statement announcing that they had recovered more than 200 victims of human trafficking. 84 of those victims were children.
The FBI Has Rescued Over 200 Human Trafficking Victims in the United States
For two weeks in August, the FBI put in overtime to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking in the United States. The results of that focused effort meant the recovery of 141 adult victims and 84 child victims. The average age of the child victims was 15.5 years old, with the youngest being only 11. This nationwide enforcement campaign was called Operation Cross Country and involved the FBI working together with 200 state, local, and federal partners. Working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they conducted 391 operations over the two-week period. They located 37 actively missing children and have identified or arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking charges.
“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a statement. “I am grateful to the dedicated professionals of the FBI and our law enforcement partners across the country for their tireless work to rescue trafficking survivors, including exploited children, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of trafficking crimes, and to provide the services and support that survivors need and deserve.”
Human Trafficking In America
Most people don’t actually realize how grave of a problem human trafficking is right in our own countries. Those living in places like the United States don’t realize that it happens daily, often right in front of their eyes. The United States recognizes two forms of human trafficking: Forced labor and sex trafficking. It is seen across a huge range of professions, including both legal and illegal sectors and industries. These include
traveling sales crews
care for persons with disabilities
fairs and carnivals
peddling and begging
drug smuggling and distribution
Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO National Center for Missing & Exploited Children explained that in the case of children, traffickers, gangs, and even family members are to blame. These are the people buying and selling children for sex in communities across the country. Sometimes it is a case of abduction or kidnapping. Many times, it is an abuse of trust by someone that the child knows.
“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize. As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation our most vulnerable populations.”
Helping The Victims
The FBI has victims specialists who are now helping the 200+ victims recover from the trauma that they have sustained during their time in captivity. These people act as a “bridge”, as the FBI calls it, for the victims. This is often because victims tend to be quite wary of the system. These workers help victims establish a more positive relationship with law enforcement and make sure they have the resources they need to heal and overcome their trauma.
Victims specialists provide each victim with what they need on an individual basis. This includes crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, transportation to receive emergency services, and locating shelter or housing. WIth their help, victims of human trafficking can slowly but surely reenter society and go on to lead happy, fulfilling, and positive lives.