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Human trafficking: The sale of women in your own backyard

It’s an unattainable dream for traffickers of guns and drugs to be able to sell and resell their commodity again and again. Consider how gun and drug crimes would skyrocket if narcotics and arms dealers could profit multiple times from the same product. For those involved in kidnapping, tricking and trafficking women into the sex trade, their commodity can be sold and resold for so long as the victim remains alive and under their control.

The trafficking of women into prostitution is pandemic. “Human trafficking is believed to be the third largest global criminal act,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports. According to the Washington Post, over a million women and girls have been affected by this crime. Not only does human trafficking make up a significant portion of the global crime rate, but it generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue. A girl can sell for as much as $3,500 for one encounter with a buyer. Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simpson discovered in their collaboratively published study of human trafficking that, “As of 2005, this global phenomenon reaped an annual worldwide profit of $44.3 billion.”

Misconceptions of human trafficking include the notion that trafficking is a problem that only exists outside of the United States. Many believe this crime to be common only in foreign areas and only inflicted upon American citizens who are risky enough to travel abroad. The Washington Post further reported, “Sex trafficking to the United States is estimated to bring 50,000 women and girls to our shores each year.” Though trafficking of women is extremely prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world, it is essential to recognize its presence in the United States too.

“Gradually, the wrong is being righted. But it takes time, and a lot of education and increased awareness,” Attorney General Janet T. Mills explained at the Justice For Women kick-off event in 2015. She went on to explain the progress that we have made as a nation by enacting several laws that resulted in a significant decrease in the demand for women as a commodity. For example, one passed federal law prohibits travel agencies from advertising or arranging international or national travel for commercial sexual benefits and exploits.

Human trafficking is so widespread that it touches even our little corner of the world. reports that 11 human trafficking cases have been reported this year in Maine, with 63 percent of these cases being sexual exploitation, victimization and trafficking of women.  

Fortunately, all 11 cases were diligently reported by the National Hotline for Human Trafficking. Organizations like the Human Trafficking Hotline and have helped citizens report suspected instances of human trafficking and provided victims with support. “We’ve made much progress, but we still have a ways to go,” Mills stated in her final remarks.

Though advocates have been fighting to clear up misconceptions and laws have been put in place to protect potential victims, we still have much more to do about this persisting pandemic. We can continue this fight by advocating for victims and reporting suspected behaviors at the National Hotline for Human Trafficking at 1-888-373-7888.

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