Monday, March 25, 2013

Human trafficking involves more than prostitution | The Columbus Dispatch

Source:  The Columbus Dispatch

By  JoAnne Viviano
The Columbus Dispatch Saturday March 23, 2013 6:02 AM
A disproportionate focus on human trafficking for prostitution could lead advocates to overlook people who are enslaved for labor such as farm work or house cleaning, said a scholar at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Although addressing sexual exploitation is important, many people, often immigrants, are trafficked for construction, agriculture, domestic and other jobs, said Yvonne Zimmerman, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at the Delaware seminary. “There’s a failure to see the problem in its full scope,” Zimmerman said. “It’s easy to garner public support for a campaign focused on sexually exploited women, but less for ... undocumented immigrants.”
People trafficked for labor often are enslaved because they fear violence if they resist, and they are paid nothing or very little. They might be immigrants whose passports have been taken by their captors, rendering them undocumented. They might be told they will be freed once they work off a debt, but the debt is impossible to repay.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 20.9 million people were in forced labor last year, including 14.2 million exploited for labor and 4.5 million for sex. The remaining 2.2 million were cases of state-imposed forced labor.
Since 2008, the Salvation Army in central Ohio has helped 260 trafficking victims: 21 percent for labor, 76 percent for sex and 3 percent for both. Seventy-seven percent were American-born; 23 percent were foreign nationals.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who reconvened a Human Trafficking Commission in 2011, said he agrees that labor exploitation is overshadowed by sex exploitation. He said he struggles with people who “think human trafficking doesn’t exist in this country.”
To make his point, he often refers to nail salons where workers don’t speak English or make eye contact — and where there might be sleeping bags in a corner.
“I use that as an example of how human trafficking can exist among us, and we don’t really recognize it,” DeWine said. “I think there has been a lot of discussion about the sex aspect of this, but ... human trafficking is such a diverse thing and can take so many forms and so many shapes.”
Border states and communities with large immigrant populations tend to identify a greater number of labor-trafficking cases, said Michelle Hannan, the director of professional and community services at the Salvation Army in Central Ohio.
“In Ohio, while we have a strong and thriving immigrant community, I think we are probably slower to identify human trafficking in some of the industries in our state,” she said.
Among the keys, she said, is raising public awareness.
“Once people understand more about trafficking, they’re looking for it and reporting it, and it kind of snowballs,” she said.
Some employers engaged in forced labor would not see themselves as traffickers but as shrewd businesspeople finding the cheapest workers, Zimmerman said. “Part of what makes it so hard to identify is that it can be so integrated into the fabric of society. It doesn’t look any different than business as usual until you look below the surface.”
Zimmerman, who last year published the book Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex and Human Trafficking, has focused her research on how American Protestantism has shaped the way the federal government responds to the trafficking problem.
She recommends that policymakers listen to a wider range of voices, from evangelical Protestants to people who aren’t religious. She also suggests that advocates listen to survivors of trafficking to empower them to live the lives they want to live — and steer away from telling them how to live.
“I think trafficked people are so much more than victims,” she said. “When people are exploited, they have more than simply the right to be rescued. … Some of those rights are to have their own dreams and goals for themselves.”

If you are a victim of human trafficking, the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition operates a 24-hour hot line at 614-285-4357.
If you think someone might be a victim of human trafficking, call the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-855-BCI-OHIO.
Signs of trafficking:
• At workplaces such as nail salons, employees seem to live where they work. Indications include sleeping bags, back rooms that appear to be living quarters, or groups of employees being driven to a workplace.
• Responses to casual questions seem scripted or rehearsed.
• Workers seem too young or act fearful or submissive. They might not be permitted to go out alone or speak for themselves.
• At hotels, an older man checks in one or more young women or girls. They refer to him as a boyfriend or “Daddy” and might have a tattoo of a man’s name. The person paying the hotel bill might have multiple cellphones or laptops and might visit often on weekends but have a local address.
• Security measures — such as barbed wire or bars on windows — appear designed to keep people inside.

Source: Ohio Human Trafficking Commission at
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