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Human Trafficking

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The Safe Center LI recognizes human trafficking as an egregious form of psychological and physical violence that requires a compassionate and just response. Some forms of human trafficking include: sex trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and labor trafficking. Victims of this crime can be children as well as adults of all genders, ethnicities, communities, and backgrounds.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” (human trafficking) as “(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion…or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services…for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” (http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/tip/c16507.htm)

The Victims

Youth who are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation generally have a difficult family life, and overwhelmingly have histories of trauma including child sexual abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, poverty, etc. Youth who are in foster care or homeless are susceptible to falling prey to pimps and traffickers who fulfill their basic needs. Youth then fall into exploitive situations which can include being sold online, out of hotel rooms, on the street, and in various other locations. Commercial sexual exploitation is psychologically damaging and youth are often exposed to severe levels of violence.

Adult survivors of trafficking come from all different backgrounds and geographic areas, including Nassau County. The Human Trafficking Department works with adults who are domestically or internationally trafficked. They are deceived or forced to work in illicit massage parlors and strip clubs which often leads to sexual exploitation, as well as other forms of labor trafficking. Many adults we serve have a history of prostitution or Unauthorized Practice of Profession arrests.

The Forms

Although domestic violence and human trafficking are different forms of victimizations, there are similarities and intersections between these types of violence.

  • Power and Control: Both batterers and traffickers use power and control to dominate their victims, and the range of tactics used by traffickers resembles that of domestic violence perpetrators. Common tactics include isolation, minimization and normalization of sex acts, physical and emotional violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, financial abuse, threats to family members, use of children to manipulate and control their victims, withholding of food, sleep, and medical care, among others.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Many victims of human trafficking experience Stockholm Syndrome, which is when a trauma-bond develops between the victim and his/her trafficker. Traffickers often use kindness and flattery to encourage a level of trust between themselves and their victims, and create the impression of a caring and loving relationship. This phenomenon is not uncommon in domestic violence situations, which helps to explain why survivors often return to their abusers before successfully fleeing a violent relationship.

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