About seven years ago, I saw the movie Taken. I remember being shocked and traumatized that such evil as kidnapping innocent young girls into human trafficking even existed. It stayed with me and when I decided to write my first novel for publication, I did research on human trafficking. I learned that it is the third largest criminal activity in the world, behind drug trafficking and counterfeiting, Taken took place in France and a European mafia was involved, so I decided to keep the European mafia in my novel but have the victim be from Moldova. At the time, it was the European country with the most victims of human trafficking.*
When True Mercy was published in December 2016, most people were still learning about sex trafficking. Since then, this crime has made headlines all over the world. Keith Raniere, founder of the self-help organization NXIVM, was convicted of sex trafficking, ISIS terrorists are forcing under aged girls into marriages in the Middle East, and schemes have come to light of older men manipulating teenage girls into sex trafficking.
By now, in August 2019, the number of cases has exploded. The latest to make headlines is the recently-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been charged with sex trafficking and sexually assaulting under aged girls.
Recently, I read a report published last month in USA Today. The following are some shocking statistics:
- The UN’s International Labor Organization reported that over 70% of sex trafficking occurs in Asia and the Pacific, 14% in Europe and Central Asia, and 4% in the Americas.
- It is estimated there are 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking in the world, 1 million of them children.
- In the United States, 1 out of 7 runaways are believed to be victims of child sex trafficking.
- Girls in foster homes are particularly vulnerable to traffickers, who manipulate them by making promises to love and take care of them.
- Worldwide forced sexual labor is a $99 billion dollar business.
- There are approximately 9,000 massage parlors that engage in sex trafficking in the US.
Why is there so much human trafficking in the world? One factor involves armed conflicts. In many of these countries, displaced civilians suffer loss of their livelihood. They are forced to desperately search for other means of survival and often fall prey to manipulative traffickers who promise them work overseas but end up enslaving them or forcing the women into marriage. This occurs more frequently in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Another factor is high unemployment. For example, when the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, Moldova became an independent nation but then suffered economic collapse. This left many people poor and the young people seeking to leave the country. Unfortunately, many fell prey to human traffickers.
Since there is more awareness of human trafficking, organizations have formed to combat it. Examples include Polaris, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office). But more work needs to be done and everyone can help.
If you need help or see something suspicious, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text “BeFree (233733), or chat humantraffickinghotline.org.
* A report by the US State Department cites Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan are the worst countries now.
Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring more awareness to the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy may be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.
- Kelly, Cara (29 July 2019) “13 sex trafficking statistics that explain the enormity of the global sex trade.” USA Today. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- “Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high, new UN report shows.” UN News. Retrieved 21 August 2019.