H.E.A.T.Watch – Stop Human Exploitation and Trafficking

Alameda County H.E.A.T. Watch Tip Line: 1-510-208-4959.
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Reasons for the Growing Epidemic

Technology and The Internet.

An increase reliance on the Internet has changed the nature and scope of traditional exploitation. As a result, human trafficking knows no borders and geography is no longer as much of a barrier. It takes the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) off the streets and onto the Internet, impairing visibility and increasing mobility. As a result, the sophistication of the CSEC marketplace is enhanced.

  • In 2005, the US Census Bureau estimated that 24.5 million children across the Nation, between ages of 10 and 17, use the Internet.
  • 1 in 5 (or about 5 million children) receive an online sexual solicitation or approach.
  • 1 in 25 receive an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tries to arrange an offline meeting.

With new technology, exploiters can reach a far broader audience much more easily. As the availability of exploited youth increases, so does the demand. These offenders often see themselves purely as business person and they respond to the demand of the market.

Victims are targeted online as well as sold online and there exist many adult escort sites on the Internet, filled with solicitation ads from CSEC victims. For the exploiter, it is easier to find victims, easier find willing accomplices and easier move from area to area quickly without losing business. The Internet increases the transitory nature of CSEC cases, making it more difficult for law enforcement to:

  • Locate victims and traffickers;
  • Identify essential witnesses and evidence;
  • Share important information and intelligence.

Profitability

The commercial sexual exploitation of children offers traffickers big money and little risk. As we've discussed before, slaves used to be expensive to own but the modern day cost of buying a slave is only $90. With human life valued at an all-time low, Internet grants greater access to children and previously unattainable profits. Even small time traffickers make big time money. As a result, drug dealers, gangs, and organized crime have been lured from traditional crime into the big business of human trafficking. We find them dealing children instead of guns or drugs.

Language

The misuse of language in how we describe children that have been sexually exploited harms the victims. Terms like “prostitute” or "whore" give a false impression of choice on the victim's part. Not only choice but a willingness to participate in the lifestyle. And the term "pimp" has been glorified by Hollywood and pop culture. Traffickers profit from these labels, which take blame and action away from the exploiter and place it on the victim.

Children are not prostitutes, they are sexually exploited minors.

The men who have sex with these minors are not "Johns," they are child rapists.

And they're not pimps, they are exploiters and traffickers.

Challenging our own language will help change the world and help us more clearly see the side of the victim.

They’re Organized, We’re Not

Agencies and organizations often work independently while traffickers operate in an interconnected network. As a result, traffickers can more easily elude law enforcement. This lack of collaboration between organizations creates a gap in care--for example, a police department may not be working with their local human trafficking victims program.

Traffickers can present themselves to their victims as the only ones who care about them, the only ones who see them. Victims are left with little trust in professionals due to this inadvertent negligence that comes from the lack of a response system.

Victimology of CSEC

Children that have been exploited often times do not identify themselves as victims. They believe their exploiters love them or that they deserve the life they have been leading. Various factors play into their denial but for many, it comes down to victims don’t know what real love looks like.

Psychological manipulation and domination creates trauma bonds from the victim to their exploiter. Many are unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement, and will not testify against their pimp because of these bonds. Many of these children have never had a stable upbringing or parental influence in their life. They are the foundation of a loving and health relationship. Understanding CSEC victimology and being compassionate and patient is the key to effectively managing CSEC victims and cases.