Human Trafficking

A Month of Dresses- What To Know So Far

It’s that time of the year! Yes, it’s the Christmas/Holiday season and many are excited for what the season brings. For me, December is not just giving and receiving gifts for Christmas, it’s a chance for me to advocate for those without a voice. Dressemeber is a month-long style challenge of wearing a dress every day for the month of December to bring awareness that human trafficking is still an issue we are currently facing. There is also a chance for those conversations to lead into a donation for an advocates page that goes straight to non-profits that fights human trafficking.

(The blue dress I am wearing was one of the dresses from the Dressemeber collection, which was designed by a survivor of human trafficking. I’m standing next to my friend Kathryn, who manages a non-profit bridal shop I volunteer at. The non-profit fights human trafficking locally in Portland Oregon. I love all these connections.)

But Why A Dress? 

Dresses are seen as weak and soft, Dressember wants a dress to stand for freedom and dignity. That’s why I’m wearing a dress. Just a month to wear a dress in the coldest time of the year, (I’m always cold by the way) is worth it if it brings awareness for others without freedom.

What Do We Need To Know About Human Trafficking Right Now? 

Purpose Of Blog

I wanted to use this blog post specifically to focus on what the United States is doing about human trafficking and how we are still having problems with it, but finding the right and accurate information is going to take some time. Instead, I’ll be informing you about what to know about human trafficking right now.

Human Trafficking and Slavery: How They’re The Same And Different. 

First I want to define human trafficking and slavery.  Human trafficking is the illegal act of using someone for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and/or forced labor. Slavery is the system as which someone is treated as the property of another person against their will. Both terms of used interchangeably and I will be using the term “human trafficking” only but felt it was important to define those terms first.

The Different Types Of Human Trafficking Situations

Dressemember gave 5 different ways people are trafficked:

  • Sex Trafficking- the use of force, fraud and coercion for a commercial sex act.
  • Forced Labor- sweatshops and other forms of employment where the individual works long hours for little to no pay.
  • Forced Marriage- not every country classifies this as human trafficking. Being married without the willingness of both parties. Usually, young women are the victims of forced marriage.
  • Child Soldiers- the same methods used to manipulate a human trafficking victim is also used children soldiers (will need to research this more at a later time).
  • Debt Bondage- someone who is serving another in order to pay off a debt.

How Do People Become Victims?

There are a few ways that an individual can become a victim of human trafficking. Often the may target of human trafficking victims are individuals who are in a vulnerable state, e.g. individuals in the foster care system, who are homeless/low-income, individuals with disabilities, refugees/immigrants, and anyone who struggles with self-worth. About 85% of victims are traffic from someone they personally know. There are stores of children and adults being kidnaped and forced into the human trafficking, however, from my research, those kidnap children are usually runaways or throwaways (being forced to leave the home without any plan or support). A 2014 statistic I found said that 1 in 6 runaways are likely sex trafficking victims.

A more subtle and common method someone becomes a victim is through a relationship between the perpetrator and victim (common in sex trafficking from my research). When the perpetrator is looking for a victim, they will find out what the victim’s needs are and see if they are willing to fall for those tricks. The perpetrator will make the victim feel valued and provide for their needs. Later the victim is put into a situation they are not comfortable with but stay because they believe something good will come and/or they don’t know a better way.

Some Overlooked Areas Of Human Trafficking

  • Domestic Work- usually a live-in nanny or housemaid. They are forced to work long hours with little to no pay. There’s a high possibility of physical and sexual abuse and identifies can be taken away from the victim.
  • Traveling Sale Crew- those people knocking on your door selling you stuff, that could be a victim of human trafficking. Runaways are most likely to be victims of this. A victim believes the perpetrator will provide them with good pay and security but will use force and coercion and takes away basic needs like food and healthy sleeping condition if they victim fails to make sales.
  • Construction- construction workers who are being taken advantage of are migrants or immigrants (often with documentation) from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The employer of the construction company classifies the worker as “independent” without the victim’s permission. This means victim to reserve no benefits will working long.
  • Carnival Workers- Victims work for long hours and are paid little to nothing. They also travel in unsanitary trailers for months. This is happening both in the United States and outside of it.

What Can We Do?

Of course, you can donate to Dressember or any non-profit fighting against human trafficking.  Researching more on human trafficking and telling your local and federal government to do something helps put more laws and policies in place to help victims become survivors. Buying more ethical products helps break the cycle of human trafficking. You can also volunteer at a local non-profit that helps fight against human trafficking or the other issues that to human trafficking (foster care, homeless, refugee care, etc.).

I believe the real solution to the the issue is to help build an individual to become more comfortable and confident with themselves. There are a few different issues that lead to human trafficking from homelessness, the foster care system, lack of support for refugees/immigrants, and lack of mental wellbeing care. The root of the problem is the lack of needs and support and as a community (locally and globally), we should care and support one another. Helping one person can give them the value they need to prevent them or their loved ones from being in a situation where they can be a victim. We must be people who care and build others up, it can one person life different.