David and Linda’s marriage reached a dead-end a year ago when David decided that she was more of a commodity to him than the mother of his children. David no longer loved the woman he swore to protect when her father offered her to him as a sign of gratitude for saving the family business. It was customary for owners of households to give out their daughters as part of deals to bring fortune or peace to their families. Linda had just turned seventeen and was eager to move away from home in the arms of a willing gentleman. The deal was done, and She would be free to leave her husband’s house after five years should they decide.
David took her back home to the states and settled somewhere in Minnesota. They quickly started a family together and looked like the future was theirs for the taking. Linda did not speak much English, nor did she understand much of what David did for work, but she believed she was playing a bigger role in making sure her family back home prospered. When she fulfilled her end of the bargain (meanwhile, still in love), she asked to go back to her country to visit her family and introduce them to her kids. David refused and broke the news that she was in the country illegally and if she tried to leave, she would be caught and prosecuted. She would lose custody of her daughters and perhaps be detained for a long time. Linda was in the country on a visiting visa that expired three years prior, and David never got it renewed. He feared the implications of aiding an illegal stay in the U.S.
All the fuss about Linda’s urge to see her family made David extremely paranoid and unstable. He was not a bad person by any means and in all his years of marriage to Linda, he didn’t hurt her. However, he never bothered to teach her English, nor did he care to teach her about the culture she lived in. If she didn’t speak to anyone, then no one needed to know anything about her. All she needed to do was to make sure meals were made on time and the children were taken care of.
Five years later, the couple slept in separate bedrooms and only met at night to have sex, leaving Linda worse off. Their disagreements ended in fights, and her plead for freedom ended with her bloodied. He was a changed man and more manipulative than ever. she was not seventeen anymore and had birthed two children. He promised he wouldn’t give her up to the authorities and take the children away, if she remained loyal and submitted to his will. They were married after all and had made vows to each other; vows that would enslave her to abuse and mental torture.
We can assume how badly life as a human being in a foreign country became for Linda after she realized David didn’t love her and wasn’t going to let her leave. For her, it started out like good fortune, till all hell broke loose. For David, it was business as usual. People believe all traffickers are criminals, and a broken family’s lifestyle is just a domestic issue that outsiders needn’t concern themselves with. However, sex trafficking can start within the walls of a home, where the perpetrator doesn’t believe a crime has been committed. According to the DHS, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Traffickers like David look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons including, psychological or emotional vulnerability, lack of a social safety net, economic hardship, or political instability. So, cases like that of David and Linda surpass domestic abuse when one partner is being extremely exploited. In the United States, this from of slavery is very alive and thriving. It can start off in minute instances to full-fledged organized crimes.
Human trafficking is now a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide and cases in the United States are continually rising. This is why activists have taking the initiative to eliminate the myth that most women who work as prostitutes do so because they want to. Under U.S. law, any minor under the age of eighteen years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking – regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.
From 2007 to 2017, the NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE, operated by POLARIS, has received reports of 34,700 sex trafficking cases inside the United States. In 2017 alone, the NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN estimated that 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported were likely sex trafficking victims. The INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION estimates that there are 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation globally.
How does one understand a trafficking victim mindset? Victims sometimes are unaware that what is being done to them is a crime. They don’t consider themselves victims and most likely blame themselves for their situations. Linda believed she was being in an arranged marriage for a good cause. She believed it was only fair that her children would not be taken from her if she stayed with David and just kept quiet. Whereas the greater catalyst that feeds the drive of trafficking is the toxicity of patriarchal ideals that give power to the ignorant and prey on the weak, but perhaps this is a broader issue in itself.
It is our duty as neighbors and friends to look beneath the surface of an issue that is portrayed as “big crime” when it may just be happening next door. If you or someone you know is being held against their will for reasons beyond comprehension and fear of persecution, call the human trafficking hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or just call 911.