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Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide on Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking

Written by Kathryn Hurry (Spring 2019 Intern)

An introduction to Sex Trafficking in Mississippi:

“The average age of entering the life for a victim is eleven to fourteen years old. Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry. It can occur through the forms of social networking, neighborhoods, clubs, bars, schools, and malls.

In the Jackson area, as well as many other parts of Mississippi and the nation, sex trafficking is a recurring problem that is growing, yet is pushed to the side. According to Polaris Project, sex trafficking is, “men or women forced into the sex industry against their will by some measure of force, fraud, or coercion.” The reality of sex trafficking can be a vast problem for some to wrap their minds around. Therefore this problem becomes “too big to handle” or too dangerous for people to become involved in. Jackson, Mississippi is the halfway point between four major cities for trafficking: Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, and New Orleans.

Women who are sexually exploited become susceptible to a variety of potential problems. The women who work in clubs must be under the rules and regulations of the owners, no matter how defacing it may be. Women who in the motels or hotels, often being subjected to sexual exploitation, are under the authority of their pimp. This not only affects a vast variety of women, but also their families. Their families become subject to this way of life, with all the possible dangers that it entails. The business within the sex trafficking industry is quite often messy and “under the table", leaving it to be unpredictable and potentially threatening to multiple areas of life. This is the sad truth of the women, and families, who are involved in the area of sexual exploitation”

(Or Intern Arleigh Seymour, 2019 Grant Template).


What actually is sex trafficking? There are different official definitions, although they all are similar. The United Nations defines sex trafficking as follows: “Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons who under threat, force, coercion, fraud, deception or abuse of power are sexually exploited for the financial gain of another.” The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of an individual who under force, fraud or coercion is induced to perform a commercial sex act.”


How does it actually differ from human trafficking?

The official definition of human trafficking is “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” The difference between sex trafficking and human trafficking is that human trafficking does not necessarily mean that the victim is being sexually exploited (labor trafficking might fall into this category as well).


Where do sex trafficking and human trafficking occur?

Sex trafficking and human trafficking occur across the globe, as victims and trafficked in and out of different cities, states, and countries without anyone realizing. Trafficking is common in the United States, which many people do not realize, as often the image that comes to mind of trafficking includes people of other ethnicities and nationalities being exploited overseas. Because of this image, many remain unaware of the extent of human and sex trafficking in America.


How prevalent is sex trafficking Worldwide?

The Polaris Project estimates that there are currently 40.3 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. It occurs everywhere and is impossible to have an exact estimate of how wide its reach is, as victims are smuggled across state, national, and continental borders everyday.


How prevalent is sex trafficking in the United States?

The U.S. Justice Department estimates that between 35,500 and 170,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year. However, many more victims within the United States are not officially considered victims (many are labelled as prostitutes and dismissed), and there is no official estimate as to how many trafficking victims are in the United States.


Who are victims of sex trafficking?

Victims of sex trafficking can include men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. However, it is estimated that 99% of victims are women and girls, and 25% of those who are trafficked are children.


Is law enforcement aware of sex trafficking and human trafficking? To what extent?

Depending on the area, law enforcement is aware of sex trafficking and human trafficking. Many police departments train their officers on how to deal with situations involving victims of human and sex trafficking. However, there have been incidents involving underage victims of sex trafficking in which the victim has been arrested and/or imprisoned in spite of being a minor due to them being labelled as prostitutes while the pimp, or trafficker, has not been charged. However, as time goes on, law enforcement is becoming more aware of the growing trafficking problem and is working to combat it either by themselves or by partnering with anti-trafficking organizations (such as the Or Project), although there are areas in which law enforcement is aware of or involved in the sex trafficking industry and does nothing to stop it.


Who are traffickers?

Traffickers are defined as those who profit from the practice of trafficking by controlling their victims and exploiting them for labor and/or sex. They can be anyone: there is not a set mold (gender, ethnicity, race, age) that the trafficker must fill. In America, traffickers are often called by another, better known name: pimps.


How are victims of sex trafficking and human trafficking recruited?

There are many ways; the most common is by manipulation. Traffickers will seek out the vulnerable and offer to fill whatever void exists inside the victim (romantic relationship, family, etc.). Once the victim has become attached to the trafficker, he will often manipulate the victim into the commercial sex trade, either by lying, guilting, positive or negative reinforcement, or even force.


Why do victims stay with traffickers?

Sometimes, victims will develop Stockholm Syndrome as it pertains to the trafficker. Stockholm Syndrome is defined as a “psychological response wherein a captive begins to identify closely with his or her captors, as well as with their agenda and demands.” Other times, factors that play into the victims remaining with their traffickers involve shame, the loss of that relationship, not having anywhere else to go, having no other options, or the threat of force or death will keep the victim from attempting to leave the trafficker.


To what degree are victims aware of their situation?

This varies from victim to victim. While the victims sometimes are aware of the situation, more often the victims either are unaware of their status as a victim or even perceive themselves as perpetrators of a crime (sometimes because of what the trafficker has led them to believe). Even when a victim is aware of their situation, however, it is incredibly difficult for them to try to leave.


The Or Project is an organization founded upon the Gospel, and there are several Biblical Passages that shine a light on how we should view and treat victims of Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking:

John 4:1-42 This passage is known as the story of the Woman at the Well

John 7:53 - 8:11 This passage is known as the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery

James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

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