Human Trafficking is often thought of an issue that happens everywhere but the United States. It is easier to think about the problem and lessen its severity if you displace the issue to somewhere else in the world and dismiss the fact that it happens here in our backyards and is a growing epidemic.

Globally, there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry worldwide. It is one of the biggest industries in the world and growing every year, and the United States is involved.

Human trafficking is not only a crime, it is a business that has an emphasis on the disposal of people. Traffickers can and will find the people that they want for their business needs and then dispose of them when they are of no use to them anymore. The common age for victims entering human trafficking are 14-16. Of the buyers 99% of them identify as male. The venues in which pimps find their victims are on social networks, their home neighborhood, bars or clubs, the internet, and schools.

Risk factors for victims is prior sexual abuse, foster care, and runaway or homeless youth. Traffickers want youth — and sex trafficking in particular is a booming industry in America that is thriving because there is a serious demand for commercial sex with minors. Our children are being bought and sold every day in America for sex.

Survival is the only thing on victims’ minds when they have been taken and now are being trafficked. Victims of human trafficking are trapped by their traffickers and often partake in what is known as “survival sex” in exchange for basic needs in order to stay alive. They are not receiving any form of currency or are able to charge a fee for their services as their traffickers are forcing them to do them and they have to in order to survive and get their basic needs.

This is an exchange of things of value and not currency. Pimping and prostitution has also been normalized in this country due to the sexual exploitation of women and children that has been reflected in games, clothing, and music. This is also why the language needs to be changed in our law as it is not a choice for these victims to sell their bodies, it is their traffickers and the victims are given the necessities to survive in return.

Human trafficking is a business that thrives off of not having to pay their victims in money but instead what they need to survive. In turn, because the language in our law has not been changed to included anything of value as payment to victims as well as money,  the state’s grade on Shared Hope on human trafficking has been reduced.

Our state’s grade is a C since again in the 2019 legislative session our legislature failed to even have a public hearing on the bill in relation to changing our states definition of human trafficking.

Shared Hope is an organization that does state report cards for the protected innocence challenge. This challenge is a comprehensive study of existing state laws designed to inspire and equip advocates. Every state is given a report card that grades it on 41 different legislative components that must be addressed in the state’s laws in order to effectively respond to crimes of domestic sex trafficking.

They also receive a complete analysis of the 41 legislative component review and recommendations for improvement. Our state used to have a grade of a B, but since our current law does not include language in the definition about the exchange of services for anything of value, (which would line up with federal law), our grade went down.

During the 2020 session, lawmakers should show victims that Connecticut does not tolerate human trafficking and change the state’s legal definition. Victims don’t get paid to be raped, beaten, and starved.

Megan Auretta is a student at the University of Connecticut and a policy practice intern for the Connecticut General Assembly.

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