We must work to stop these crimes before they happen

Vice President Kamala Harris on human trafficking

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Most would agree that slavery is a deplorable and inhumane form of subjugation that should have never existed. Despite this, slavery maintains its global presence. 

The pervasive toxin that’s found its way into nearly every country is now referred to as human trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery. 

What is human trafficking?

According to the U.S. Department of State, every year, an estimated 24.9 million people are snuck across international borders and often either coerced, tricked, or even blackmailed into participating in exploitative situations. These individuals are defined as victims and/or survivors of human trafficking. 

How people become victimized 

Many victims are lured by false promises of decent jobs and better lives, only to find themselves forced to work -and often perform sexual acts- against their will.

One survivor of sex trafficking explained that it all started when she ran away from home as a teenager and fell in love with an older man. She said he pressured her into the lifestyle, eventually holding her against her will and physically abusing her.

“He made me feel like I was doing it because I loved him, and in the end, we’d have a really good (financial) reward.”

But his words were cleverly crafted lies, designed to strip his teenage victim of self-esteem, confidence, and to keep her under his control. Many survivors have similar stories.  

Local Statistics

The toxic effects of human trafficking seem to have interwoven their way into the fabric of nearly every society, including Louisiana’s. 

According to a report from Louisiana’s Department of Children & Family Services, in 2021, an estimated 759 people were victims of human trafficking in Louisiana, 530 of whom were children. 

The report went on to say that 692 of the victims were female, 63 were male, and 4 were not gender identified. 

An organization called the National Human Trafficking Hotline also shed light on the current state of human trafficking in Louisiana, reporting that since the start of 2022, it’s received 157 calls from victims and survivors.  

Indications that someone may be a trafficking victim 

Considering the fact that hundreds of people, including children, are impacted by human trafficking right here in Louisiana, it may be beneficial to learn what to look for as signs that someone is a victim of trafficking. 

According to the U.S. Department of State, the following red flags may indicate that someone is a victim:

  • The person is living with their employer
  • Their environment consists of poor living conditions 
  • They live with multiple people in a cramped space
  • You notice you’re never able to speak with the individual alone
  • When they answer your questions, their responses appear scripted and rehearsed
  • Their employer is holding their personal ID documents
  • You notice signs of physical abuse
  • Their manner is submissive or fearful
  • They are unpaid or paid very little
  • They are under 18 and in prostitution

The federal government goes on to suggest that if you’re able to safely ask the individual questions about their situation, you might ask:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

Where to get help

If it seems the person you’re speaking to has been taken advantage of by a human trafficker and they need immediate assistance, the best thing to do is to call 911.

Otherwise, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is a 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. 

Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. 

The Hotline is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including, but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.

Click here for more information on local efforts to erradicate human trafficking in Louisiana and to help victims and survivors.