Some call it modern day slavery. Authorities call it human trafficking. Sometimes it is referred more specifically as sex trafficking. Any or all of these terms can be used to describe the pervasive activity crooks engage in to obtain illicit labor or facilitate commercial sex acts. Did you know that there is now a fear that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased risk for this type of crime?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, criminals engaging in human trafficking often trick their victims into performing forced labor or prostitution. They often do so by making enticing promises about good jobs or intimacy. They may also resort to violence, threats, or intimidation to ensure compliance.
Trauma inflicted by traffickers is sometimes so extensive that many victims may not identify themselves as victims. Even if they have a chance to escape, they may not take the chance to seek help because they have a fear of their traffickers, or even of law enforcement. They may also have limited English speaking skills which may make them feel unable to reach out for help.
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, fears over an increasing risk of human trafficking have arisen. This is because, like most criminals, human traffickers prey on vulnerable people. This vulnerability may stem from:
- Mental health issues
- Financial hardship
- The absence of a social safety net
- Natural disasters
- Political instability
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated government restrictions have thrown the world through a loop. They have also created a great deal of stress and made getting help for even the simplest problems more difficult than usual. In the United States, unemployment numbers continue to soar.
In other words, COVID-19 has created considerable chaos. Human traffickers thrive on this kind of chaos. This may be not only because it creates opportunities to target new victims, but also to re-ensnare old ones. Furthermore, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says the COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions make it harder for victims to get help.
To help mitigate risks of human trafficking, Americans can do things such as learning about human trafficking and supporting organizations that assist high-risk individuals. Doing your part to bolster the overall economy may also be helpful. If you have questions or concerns about human trafficking, please feel free to contact our law firm. We are always here to help.