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Corona Virus and Human Trafficking

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

In these unprecedented times, no one in the United States is untouched by the corona virus. Whether working from home, filing for unemployment, wearing masks and gloves to run an errand, keeping an appropriate 6 feet away from others, or just missing sports events and shopping in stores, we all have a new normal.

In business, it has forced all of the participants, both buyers and sellers to adapt, adjust processes, and create contingency plans.

Human trafficking is believed to be the largest criminal industry in the world today. They function like any other business, there is a product and a demand. A virus can disrupt the supply chain, but ingenuity and the need to survive will prevail.

Being in the middle of this pandemic doesn’t afford the luxury of a lot of data. Even when data is available it is subject to a very fluid situation so what is true today might not be tomorrow. There will certainly be surprises after this is over and we look back to review statistics and talk to those involved. However, based on what we do know about sex trafficking, we can speculate on how this business will respond.

Things to consider:

  1. Large gatherings such as sporting events, conventions etc, are huge money makers for selling sex. In surveys, many law enforcement professionals feel like criminals have no choice but to wait for these large gatherings to restart.

  2. Estimates are at over $35 billion industry annually for sex trafficking; how does that look with a soaring unemployment rate and financial instability for many businesses?

  3. The majority of buying and selling humans for sex take place before and after work hours; many buyers are working from home or are unemployed. No commute to hide the purchase will require some creativity.

  4. 45% of trafficking starts online and 50% in public. Since Covid 19 began, consumers are purchasing more products online.

  5. One commonality that all cases of human trafficking across the globe have is that they originate with vulnerability. Traffickers always prey on that vulnerability. Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear create that vulnerability, leaving more women and children at risk.

  6. While most criminal activity has decreased since Covid 19 has many locked down at home; there is an increased number of domestic violence incidents. Even so, many law enforcement officials feel there are even more unreported cases because students are not in school, and workers are working from home which mean outside parties aren’t seeing and reporting the effects of the violence.

  7. Pornography is huge catalyst for buyers to buy sex. We know that visits to porn sites have skyrocketed in recent weeks with many at home. Thus, fueling the demand for sex trafficking.

Lastly, a common thread that runs through many stories we have heard from those that survive human trafficking is that the trafficker will manipulate the situation to show all ill effects to their business are the fault of the victims. Rebecca Bender explains “if you got robbed it was your fault because you were stupid, if you got raped it was your fault because you weren’t watching your back”. Will Covid 19 and its effects on the trafficker’s income be somehow turned around and blamed on those trafficked?

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