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Trafficking Of Human Beings Is A Social Justice Issue

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Data reports that human trafficking is the second leading transnational crime in the United States which includes forced labor and sexual exploitation. (Shelley 2010). Human trafficking consists of many forms of exploitation; the sex industry comprises of the largest group of victims. (Banks and Kyckelhahn 2011). According to a special data report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the Human Trafficking Reporting System (HTRS) “most suspected incidents of human trafficking were classified as sex trafficking (82%)”. While the social problem of sex trafficking has received much attention globally, the fact that this form of exploitation happens within and into the United States has gained immense attention in the U.S.

In the United States around 17,500 officially confirmed victims are trafficked into the country per year. (Banks and Kyckelhahn 2011, U.S. Department of State). Our interest in the study was to analyze victim’s commercial sexual exploitation, most commonly known as ‘sex trafficking.’ Unfortunately, this population often gets overlooked, due to sex trafficking being hidden by any criminal activity that the victims are also committing. (Farrell and Fahy 2009). For instance, when a “prostitute” is incarcerated, we do not look past what we see in front of us, a prostitute. We do not see that she may be a victim and may have gotten in that situation by being coerced into the act. Since most vicitims are not always seen as the victims rather a criminal there are laws that protect them. In 2000, the U.S. government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA), which defined a new crime of human trafficking and directed law enforcement agencies to begin identifying and responding to this form of victimization (Banks and Kyckelhahn 2011). As a result, under this act, TVPA, sexually exploited minors are considered victims rather than perpetrators of crime.

In our research, we took a look at the different variables that bring people into Sex Trafficking. We addressed the question of substance use being a link or a pathway to sex trafficking. We mostly used studies that focused on Quantitative Data. Most of the studies reviewed used multiple other variables for the onset of sex trafficking. Some of those variables included parental misguidance, coercion, homelessness, criminal activity and our primary focus, the use of illicit substances. The studies do show a correlation between domestic violence, child abuse, and sex trafficking.

‘Parental Effects on the exchange of the Sex for drugs or money in adolescents.’ McNeal & Walker (2015)

The overall concept of this study is to identify how parental effects can influence adolescents and their decision to begin trading sex for money or drugs. The influence parents have in the role in their children’s lives is substantial to the upbringing of youth and their future. McNeal and Walker (2015) identified that parental effects include parental involvement, intimacy of communication, and parental attachment. They obtained these findings through a series of questionnaires and in-person interviews. The strength of this study was its attempt to achieve an overall sample of the U.S. school population. However, this is also a limitation due to not being able to identify areas of the country that suffer most from this epidemic.

The questionnaire given to the parents could be faulty, as it may ask questions that the parents misunderstand. For example, the parents can state that they are engaged in their child’s development by just physically being present in their lives, but they don’t ‘parent’ in other ways, such as helping their child with homework. Reliability of the tests given to the participants had a Cronbach’s alpha below the threshold of .700, so this is also an indicator of the improvements that can be made to the study. Also, the parents may not be completely truthful in the face of the interviewer to prevent possible repercussions they may face if they were accurate with the absence in their children’s lives. Of the three items measured, the parental attachment was the only significant variable indicating the association. After analysis, the idea of how parental effects can influence the decision to trade sex for money or drugs shows vulnerabilities the adolescent has to make this decision. To enhance the study, better, reliable tools should be used in order to make the inferences credible.

‘Trading Sex: Voluntary or Coerced? The Experiences of Homeless Youth’ Tyler & Johnson (2006)

This study examines if the decision to trade sex for money, drugs, food, or shelter were predicated by a decision of coercion. Through this qualitative study, participants were extracted from service agencies and by outreach or snowball sampling. Of the forty participants, twelve interviewers reported an association with the possibility of trading sex for items they deemed necessary for survival. ‘Whether it was in the form of having traded sex, having been propositioned to trade sex, but having refused, or having friends or acquaintances who had traded sex’ (Tyler, Johnson, 2006, p.1). A limitation of this study was that not all reports were followed through with trading sex for drugs, etc. All those in the adolescent population reported that they traded sex for items for survival; they weren’t willing but did so out of desperation. The older population reported that they traded sex by the use of force, coercion, or manipulation. Women who had friends that traded sex for drugs were more likely than men to trade sex for drugs. A limitation of this study was defining ‘trading sex.’ The respondents reported it was difficult for them to answer these questions accurately because of coercion or force.

One respondent reported that she traded sex for drugs so her boyfriend wouldn’t physically abuse her. The benefit to this study was that it was a qualitative study, so the interviewers were able to probe for clarification, or the respondents had the opportunity to share their experiences as to what drove their ‘decision.’ The study can challenge the thought that most homeless people trade sex for drugs as a means of survival with the findings. With a smaller sample, we are unable to obtain a generalization of the ‘decision or coercion,’ being a factor. What could have been beneficial to this study would have been to conduct a mixed- methods study where there can be a larger sample and randomly select from the bunch to provide interviews too. A limitation would also be obtaining accurate results as the participants may not want to admit that they traded sex for drugs or other items out of shame, fear, of legal implications. Though this study aligns with alternate studies and the trend of sex being traded for drugs or other means of survival, it indicates that it happens less than those in the homeless population and it characterized a more personal indication as to why it occurs. This can be effective for the use of social work to advocate for the victims and showcase their ‘back against the wall’ decisions to engage in these acts. This population is easily vulnerable and should be seen as victims rather than criminals.

“Correlates of the Sex Trade among African-American Youth Living in Urban Public Housing: Assessing the Role of Parental Incarceration and Parental Substance Use.”

This study focuses on the impact of parental incarceration, and the consequences of parental substance use in African-American youth. Many teenagers do not know how to handle a difficult situation. When a teenager faces a situation where one of their parents have been taken to prison, they cope with a complicated situation. Most of the time teenagers do not know how to cope with this problem. For some teenagers, engaging in sex behaviors mainly sex trafficking is a mode of survival. Teenagers participate in this danger situations for several reasons.This study attempts to focus its research on runaway youth and street youth. Also, international youths were considered for this research.

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