Reflection on January’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month and its Connection to DV

Often times when asked, “what does slavery look like in America,” individuals will explain slavery as a phenomenon of the past, abolished in 1865. However, many fail realize that slavery continues today. This reality is not a distant issue only in developing countries worldwide; rather, slavery is present in our community and home of Los Angeles. Human trafficking is known as modern day slavery because it involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.[1] Millions of men, women and children are given false promises of well paying jobs, citizenship, education, or a happy marriage, when in reality their trafficker has all the control and power to exploit all their basic human rights.[2] According to CIA estimates, as many as 15,000 to 17,500 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States every year—LA being one of the top points of entry for victims of slavery and trafficking.[3] This issue is not one that we can ignore. Not only because of the atrocities happening in our neighborhood but also because of human trafficking’s connections to domestic violence.   

               According to the Domestic Violence Report, many victims of sex trafficking are referred to domestic violence services due to the similarities in circumstances. Though there are apparent differences between these two circumstances—such as trafficking being dependent on the purchasing of a human being and on the principles of supply and demand—many scholars have concluded that there are several intersections and similarities between these two types of violence.

How are they similar?

Both human trafficking and intimate partner violence are NOT asked for and are NOT voluntary. Perpetrators in both circumstances take advantage of a relationship of trust in order to exert POWER and CONTROL over another human being. Abusers and traffickers manipulate victims into a life of silence and compliance—through differing threats (use of children, citizenship status, fear, violence, finances). There is a great threat to individual’s lives if they try leaving their trafficker or abuser.[4] Ultimately, both groups deserve having their complex and unique needs met. However, in organizations that serve individuals who have experienced domestic violence, it is crucial that we too grow to understand the needs of individuals who have been trafficked.[5]







[5] Domestic Violence Report. “Meeting the Needs of Victims of Sex Trafficking: DV Victims Services as Appropriate Providers?