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The Problem Of Human Trafficking In The Us

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I am the type of person to think everyone’s nice until proven otherwise. My sister is the same way as well and it makes my mom call us “naïve” or “innocent”. I’d like to believe that what I think is true, but unfortunately not. The other day I was walking through one of the busiest streets in New York city in Times Square and every time someone bumped into ME I apologized. My friend that was a native of the city was like “what are you doing apologizing? this is NYC”. I took that and really thought deep into it. For some reason that really grasped onto my mind. I thought to myself, “how do I know if I am being too nice?” or “when should I stop before I realize someone’s taking advantage of me?” I have always struggled with this my entire life and it definitely could lead to putting myself in danger. The podcast project that I had to complete for my social psychology course touched base on social etiquette and social obligations people face every day of their lives. Social etiquette is a code of behavior that sets the expectation for social behavior based on the norms within society, social class or a group. To boil it down this is when you feel like you need to interact with someone because society says you should. It really helped me think about situations I have been in that I never really thought about before. There are many circumstances that social obligations could lead us too… even something as scary as human trafficking.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, this year they have had 14,117 calls and 5,147 cases reported so far. They are many warning signs and targets for victims who can be lured into this. An “employer” can walk up to someone anywhere at a mall, grocery store and public attractions and offer things that just seem too good to be true and get a person under untrue pretenses. This is where my personable character and my sister’s friendliness can be dangerous because if I were in this situation and someone came up to me and tried to strike a conversation, I would usually respond to them. I’d like to describe myself as a “social butterfly”. I can talk to anyone about almost anything! There have been multiple occasions if I am shopping at a mall people have come up to me and tried to recruit me for various things and I have actually stopped to talk to them. Now, after doing all this research it seems dangerous and after the news I hear all the time of people going missing it usually starts off as something like this.

Human traffickers use social obligations and psychological tactics to obtain an individual. Most of the public is not aware that people who traffic have a low-risk of getting caught and a very high reward once the task is completed. Sometimes the obligations we feel to engage with people and to not seem rude can be used against us. Human trafficking is a business when freedom is stolen from someone for profit (Human Trafficking, 2018). In human trafficking, when a trafficker goes to take someone they often will use social obligations against us. Instead of using physical violence to ensure they won’t attract attention from bystanders or law enforcement they use psychological tactics. Some of these tactics consist of dehumanization, distrusting of other people, keeping a close watch on their victims, and even threatening them (Withers, 2016).

The traffickers understand that people do not want to be seen as rude and in turn and may use that to their advantage to remove people from public areas. This can create an easier way to take them away. Sometimes it’s not a big scheme but instead just something as simple as offering you water. Most people feel at least obligated to take it, and with some light pressure, you could get a person to drink it. These tactics are critical and used almost every day and every time to ensure a trafficker has reached success in doing what they need to do. These exploiters usually target younger boys and girls since they demonstrate more vulnerability. This can be through social media, school, shopping malls, playgrounds etc. (Riley, 2016). A tactic they use is to gain their trust and perhaps be that person a child desires to have in their life. Once the trust is established the manipulation begins. I was reading this article on CNN’s website written by Brad Riley and he mentioned that a human trafficker can be have “5 disguises.” A pretender, provider, promiser, protector and punisher (Riley, 2016). All these words are self-explanatory, however when I read the article it made so much more sense how these psychological tactics are used to capture someone.

The forced labor and human trafficking industry is worth about $150 billion. When people get trafficked they can be forced and used for multiple things. Sex and labor are the most common reasons people can get trafficked for. According to a website called the polarisproject.org, 75% of the people who get trafficked are women and girls (Human Trafficking, 2018). The website also states that 49,000 cases have been reported over the past ten years and their hotline receives approximately 150 calls per day (Human Trafficking, 2018). People who have been or still are victims of human trafficking need additional assistance that they may not reach out for.

It is important for us as humans to know what indicators can be present for a person who may need help. Each individual can have different signs and some may not express red flags at all. Victims can show abnormal behavior such as being tense, experiencing paranoia, fear and even lack of hygiene (Human Trafficking, 2018). When a person is constantly being monitored and not in control of their own finances, barely has any personal possessions and not speaking for themselves that shows a huge sign that something is not right.

Our social obligations as individuals in society can make us do things because we are compelled too. For example, if a friend gives you a present on your birthday, you are more probable to give one in return on their birthday. Social obligations and etiquette changes with time. Some things our grandparents and parents feel like are social obligations may not be as crucial to our generation as a social obligation.

In our podcast we also touched base on personal experiences where social obligations got the best of us. My group member Kasey mentioned how whenever she is grocery shopping or pumping her gas she always runs into people or groups that ask for donations or trying to sell a product. Kasey said she always felt guilty saying no and I could totally relate to that feeling. In this situation, it is also not right to just stand there and ignore them because they are humans too. Every day we encounter situations like this and feeling cornered or pressured into something because of the fact that we do not want to be rude and walk away. It can lead to feeling awkward and uncomfortable. These situations do not just arise from strangers, but often come from people that we know, which can make it even worse.

We tried incorporating and thinking of tips to help people respectfully get out of these awkward situations we may encounter or even if we are in a hurry and do not really have the time to have a conversation. The seven words- “I’ll have to let you go now” can help wind-up a conversation without hesitation. This is one of the best strategies we talked about because when you use that line you are not making up an excuse to exit the conversation. Social obligations and etiquette is something that is very crucial to our lives. It can make our lives easier but also just as hard and awkward. Additionally, human trafficking is one of the biggest hidden crimes and our social obligations could lead us to scary incidents like this when it is used against us. It is not 100% avoidable, but using the simple expression “I have to let you go now” can help conclude a conversation much easier without feeling offensive.

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