Substance Abuse and Human Trafficking

How does human trafficking affect the African American Community?

In 2018, Essence reported that more than 14,000 calls were made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Human trafficking is also known as modern-day slavery. Victims are more likely to be African American than other ethnicities.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 62% of Human trafficking suspects, including both children and adults, are African American. Additionally, African American children make up 52% of all juvenile prostitution arrests. In many instances, these children are not prostitutes. They are victims. 

Researchers and advocates alike are trying to understand why African American victims are overrepresented in human trafficking.  Some argue that the demand for African Americans is higher than the demand for other races.

Others suggest that because African American men abduct and traffic the highest percentage of America’s Human trafficking victims, the traffickers have more connections to African American victims and operate more comfortably in low-income African American communities where many victims live.

Equally as disturbing is that traffickers interviewed for a recent Urban Institute study overwhelming believed that trafficking white women would make them more money, but trafficking black women would land them less jail time if caught. What is more, these traffickers are more than likely selling the services of, their victims to affluent and highly regarded Caucasian men.

As a result, advantaged Caucasian offenders are more relatable and thus more credible to jurors than a young, poor, less educated victim. Instead of protection, counseling and training, they are given jail time and the penalties of having a juvenile record.

Cyntoia Brown is a prime example of an African American girl who was convicted of murder for killing her captor in 2004.  At 16 years of age, Cyntoia was prostituted by a pimp and later sold to a 43-year-old Caucasian male. In fear of her life, she shot and killed her solicitor. Her story was captured in the 2011 documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story and brought to light by celebrities Rihanna and Kim Kardashian who advocated for her release.

On Tuesday, January 8, 2019, CNN announced that Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency and was be released to parole supervision on August 7, 2019. She served a total of 15 years in prison. The second installment of her documentary is slated to be released later this year.

The narrative about sex trafficking, however, will not change until behaviors and perceptions change – including that of the “good victim.”

“As a prosecutor, I dealt with the issue of the ‘good victim’ and the ‘bad victim’ repeatedly,” Lauren Hersh, national director of World Without Exploitation, said to Atlanta Black Star. “There are definitely victims that are white with blonde hair and blue eyes, but most victims of the sex trade do not look that way. The idea of the ‘good victim’ patently flies in the face of anything that can help us combat this issue. If we are only talking about trafficking and we are not talking about racial inequality, and we are not talking about gender inequality, and we are not talking about income inequality, we cannot tackle this issue.”

“For years, the victims of these crimes were labeled ‘throwaway kids,’ people that didn’t matter too much to society. We are starting to come around on this, but there are still people out there that choose to look away because these kids may not look like their kids. We must continue to press this issue and make this issue relevant and heard. Adults and children who have been trafficked or sexually exploited should be treated as victims of a crime, not as criminals themselves.”

How you can help fight human trafficking.

Anyone can join in the fight against human trafficking. Here are 20 ideas to consider acting on in the year 2020.

  1. Learn the indicators of human trafficking on the TIP Office’s website or by taking a training.  Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, educators, and federal employees, among others.
  2. If you are in the United States and believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or report an emergency to law enforcement by calling 911. Trafficking victims, whether or not U.S. citizens, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
  3. Be a conscientious and informed consumer. Find out more about who may have picked your tomatoes or made your clothes at, or check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies to take steps to prevent human trafficking in their supply chains and publish the information, including supplier or factory lists, for consumer awareness.
  4. Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community.
  5. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal elected officials to let them know you care about combating human trafficking and ask what they are doing to address it.
  6. Be well-informed. Set up a web alert to receive current human trafficking news. Also, check out CNN’s Freedom Project for more stories on the different forms of human trafficking around the world.
  7. Host an awareness-raising event to watch and discuss films about human trafficking. For example, learn how modern slavery exists today; watch an investigative documentary about sex trafficking; or discover how forced labor can affect global food supply chains. Alternatively, contact your local library and ask for assistance identifying an appropriate book and ask them to host the event.
  8. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
  9. Encourage your local schools or school district to include human trafficking in their curricula and to develop protocols for identifying and reporting a suspected case of human trafficking or responding to a potential victim.
  10. Use your social media platforms to raise awareness about human trafficking, using the following hashtags: #endtrafficking, #freedomfirst.
  11. Think about whether your workplace is trauma-informed and reach out to management or the Human Resources team to urge implementation of trauma-informed business practices.
  12. Become a mentor to a young person or someone in need. Traffickers often target people who are going through a difficult time or who lack strong support systems. As a mentor, you can be involved in new and positive experiences in that person’s life during a formative time.
  13. Parents and Caregivers: Learn how human traffickers often target and recruit youth and who to turn to for help in potentially dangerous situations. Host community conversations with parent teacher associations, law enforcement, schools, and community members regarding safeguarding children in your community.
  14. Youth: Learn how to recognize traffickers’ recruitment tactics, how to safely navigate out of a suspicious or uncomfortable situations, and how to reach out for help at any time.
  15. Faith-Based Communities: Host awareness events and community forums with anti-trafficking leaders or collectively support a local victim service provider.
  16. Businesses: Provide jobs, internships, skills training, and other opportunities to trafficking survivors. Take steps to investigate and prevent trafficking in your supply chains by consulting the Responsible Sourcing Tool and Comply Chain to develop effective management systems to detect, prevent, and combat human trafficking.
  17. College Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Request that human trafficking be included in university curricula.
  18. Health Care Providers: Learn how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims. With assistance from local anti-trafficking organizations, extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims. Resources from the Department of Health and Human Services can be found on their website.
  19. Journalists: The media plays an enormous role in shaping perceptions and guiding the public conversation about human trafficking. Seek out some media best practices on how to effectively and responsibly report stories on human trafficking.
  20. Attorneys: Offer human trafficking victims legal services, including support for those seeking benefits or special immigration status. Resources are available for attorneys representing victims of human trafficking.