There are more people in slavery today than anytime in history. The globe is surrounded by the effects of this 150 billion dollar industry which fuels the selling and abuse of individuals’ bodies. The issue of sex trafficking has become an epidemic of tragedy and abuse which has caused immense pain in the hearts and lives of countless individuals. It is crucial to acknowledge Sex Trafficking Awareness month by spreading awareness and educating ourselves on the realities of this underground crime which occurs in our own cities and neighborhoods.
Highway 20, the 140 mile stretch from Birmingham to Atlanta, is the most heavily trafficked stretch of interstate in the US. This act of coercion and force comes in many forms, not only abduction. Most trafficking occurs through expert grooming and online manipulation. 80% of victims are women and up to 50% are minors. If a minor (under the age of 18, or some states, 19 years old) is in the prostitution industry, they are automatically considered a victim of sex trafficking. This eliminates the requirement for “force” to define a victim for anyone declared a minor by law.
One becomes vulnerable to exploitation when exposed to substance misuse, violence and abuse, instability, lack of education, and isolation. These factors have come to result in increased vulnerability and decrease in defensive measures against the threats. Exploitation and trafficking can occur in many different ways, all resulting in the deception and force of an individual to perform or complete tasks. Deceptive methods can include false job offers, predator relationships, or being sold into the industry by another benefiting individual. Although physical force is one means of trafficking, physiological coercion is another major factor that influences a victim.
Contrary to popular belief, a majority of traffickers and predators are women who were initially victims of the industry. 50% of the convicted traffickers in over 14 countries and between 10% and 50% in 28 countries were women. These statistics are stumbling and should arouse more attention to the severity of this epidemic.
When rescued, the trauma experienced can lead to the cycle starting over if not addressed. The cycle that is created has detrimental effects on all personnel involved. When victims of this underground crime are rescued it is crucial that they find a place where they can find healing and safety. One such place is the WellHouse, which is local to Birmingham, Alabama. This ministry provides refuge and safety to adult victims of the sex trafficking industry. It is throughout the month of January that APC will be partnering with WellHouse to share their rescue stories and blogs in order to spread awareness and provide firsthand accounts to the tragedies that sex trafficking provides and the healing that can be found despite the brokenness.