1. Isn’t human trafficking an international problem that involves smuggling across borders?
While the purpose of smuggling is movement, the purpose of human trafficking is exploitation. Human trafficking is legally defined as:
“(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
While human trafficking may involve movement of victims across borders, in many cases it does not. In fact, researchers believe that the majority of trafficking cases in the U.S. and in San Diego are domestic trafficking situations in which victims are American citizens.
2. What do we know about human trafficking here in San Diego county?
A recent study titled “Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego County,” conducted by Dr. Jamie Gates at Point Loma Nazarene University and Dr. Ami Carpenter at the University of San Diego, sheds much light on the sex trafficking industry in San Diego. Some of their key findings are quite striking:
o Sex trafficking in San Diego generates an estimated $810 million annually and is the 2nd largest underground economy after drug trafficking.
o There are an estimated 8,830 – 11,773 victims of sex trafficking per year in San Diego.
o The average age of entry into commercial child sexual exploitation (child sex trafficking) in San Diego is 15 years old.
o 80% of San Diego sex trafficking cases reviewed in the study were domestic, involving American citizens; 20% of trafficking victims were from Mexico and 10 other countries.
o Sex trafficking facilitators control an average of 4.5 victims.
o At least 110 gangs are involved in sex trafficking in San Diego. 85% of sex trafficking facilitators interviewed in the study were gang-involved.
o The study’s sample of pimps and/or sex trafficking facilitators in prison included roughly an equal number of white, black, and Hispanic facilitators.
o Recruitment for sex trafficking of minors is happening on a large scale in high school and middle school campuses.
o There are only 30 long-term beds for trafficking survivors in San Diego County.
Read more about the findings of the study here: https://www.sandiego.edu/peacestudies/research-fieldwork/human-trafficking-study.php
3. In domestic trafficking situations, when victims aren’t being restrained physically by their traffickers, why don’t they just leave?
Often, the bonds that hold sex trafficking victims in slavery are primarily psychological and not always physical. Commonly, those who are trafficked have been manipulated to believe they are to blame for their situation, and thus many do not self-identify as victims. Below are some common reasons that render victims unable or unwilling to leave their exploitation and seek help:
i. Captivity or confinement in locked rooms
ii. Being guarded, watched, and controlled by a trafficker
iii. Threats of violence to the victim and victim’s family
iv. Fear of arrest, violence, or death
v. Shame about the sexual acts they have been coerced or forced to perform
vi. Intense psychological manipulation and brainwashing by the trafficker, often leading to the victim’s self-blame and loyalty to the trafficker (known as Stockholm Syndrome)
vii. Financial, social, and emotional dependence on the trafficker due to long periods of control and isolation from other support structures
viii. “Debts” that victims believe must be paid to the trafficker (a type of slavery known as “debt bondage”)
ix. Lies, deceit, and false promises from the trafficker about a “better life”
x. Lack of knowledge about social support systems and where to turn for help in the area
xi. Lack of personal documents (often lost or confiscated by the trafficker)
xii. Distrust of law enforcement and service providers
xiii. Feelings of low self-worth, resignation, and hopelessness
4. How are pornography and prostitution linked with sex trafficking?
Prostitution and pornography are inherently exploitative industries that create a market for the buying and selling of human persons. Many victims of trafficking are coerced or forced to work as “prostitutes” in massage parlors, spas, strip clubs, hotels, street prostitution, and internet prostitution. They are manipulated and controlled by traffickers; their situation is not one of free choice or fully informed consent. Women in the sex trade endure humiliation, rape, and violence. Furthermore, the national average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 12-14 years of age ; this is not “prostitution,” but sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The viewing of pornography fuels human trafficking because it produces and promotes demand for commercial sex acts and prostitution. Furthermore, many victims of sex trafficking have been forced to work in the pornographic industry. Often trafficking may occur in the process of producing pornography. For more information, please see the video below for more information from researcher Dr. Donna Hughes entitled “Porn Harms: An Untreated Pandemic”:
5. Once Our Lady’s Refuge is operational, CIH will receive government funding. Why do you accept government funds?
People are often afraid that we will not be able to freely practice our Catholic faith if we do so. This concern is valid, and we appreciate those who have voiced it.
The answer to this question is two-fold. First of all, there is no way to house minors without receiving state funding. The only ways outside of adoption to care for a child who is not one’s own are either 1) to become a foster parent, 2) to open a small family home (which is a cross between being a foster parent and running a group home), or 3) to open a group home/residential treatment facility. We are doing the latter because it will enable us to house more girls and because a residential treatment facility addresses the needs of commercial sexually exploited children in the best possible way. Trafficking victims have the same rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as soldiers coming home from combat in wars overseas. In a residential treatment program, the entire home, set-up, schedule, therapy, and staff are all formed specifically to help bring healing to girls with sexual trauma on top of many others challenges they have from their early years.
The funding for the group home comes through TANF, which means it is foster care funding given to hire staff to care for the girls and meet their basic needs. This funding is different from receiving a grant which has specific stipulations about how to spend the money.
The second part of the answer is that our consultant has been running group homes like our projected home for 30 years, and he says that the counties are not opposed to faith-based organizations because these organizations have high success rates. What the state prohibits is forcing the girls to attend church services or to convert to a specific religion. However, the Catholic faith has such a profound understanding of the freedom of the human person; it is not her way to force the faith upon anyone, and doing so is ontologically impossible.
Watch this video of “Martha’s Story” in our Vimeo channel to see a story about how Jesus is coming to trafficked girls directly (https://vimeo.com/140622392). These precious children are hungry for Christ, and for those whose hearts are open, we will be there to share the Gospel. Even if they are not open to receiving the message of Christianity, we must remember that we are only called to do our part to serve them and bring them the love of God.
6. What can I do to help fight human trafficking?
Prayer: Prayer is essential. Pray for the rescue and restoration of victims, the conversion of traffickers, the transformation of our culture, and an end to modern-day slavery.
Prevention: Help prevent human trafficking by promoting the sacredness of marriage, strengthening family bonds, educating on the true beauty and plan of God for human sexuality, promoting chastity, upholding the dignity of every person, and discouraging the use of pornography.
Awareness/education and community involvement: Help to spread awareness about human trafficking in your community and support survivor rescue and aftercare initiatives.
7. How can I get involved with CIH?
First, please pray for our work! We need your prayers above all else.
Second, please consider donating to CIH. Our work is made possible through the generous donations of our benefactors and is currently 100% donor-supported. For more information, see the “Donate” page under the “Give” menu above.
Third, join us as a volunteer! For more information, please see the “Volunteer” page under the “Give” menu above.
U.S. Congress. (2000, October 28). Victims of Trafficking and Protections Act of 2000. (Public Law 106-386). Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/.
Domestic Trafficking: The Criminal Operations of the American Pimp” developed by Polaris Project, found at https://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/victims/humantrafficking/vs/documents/Domestic_Sex_Trafficking_Guide.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. “HUMAN TRAFFICKING INTO AND WITHIN THE UNITED STATES: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.”