There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking.
Jenny was trafficked into forced prostitution in the state of Nebraska. Here she draws on her experience to suggest ways to improve support for women after they have escaped their trafficker. She highlights the importance of raising awareness and access to counselling, not just for the person trafficked but those close to them.
I guess again awareness is the big- a big thing, a big part of it. Awareness for not just the girls that might be in the situation, but also for others to know and watch for signs…‘cause the victims might not always feel comfortable, speaking out, and then that way if everyone’s aware, then others can also come in and try to help.
Well, for sure like counseling is I think would be really big, especially if it’s, um, if they’ve gone through it and they’re survivors, even after they’ve been taken out of the situation, you still need the aftercare like counseling and support….I know like in my situation, um, I received counseling, but it was just until they thought I, I didn’t need counseling anymore. So, you know, it- you- I think it’s important to know that you should still have counseling even after that. You know, not just immediate counseling, but even you know, some six months a year from then.
First of all the program should be something that’s available to everyone, because I know, I guess I don't know how most of them work, but, if they…involve like you know, registering or signing up or paying or that kind of thing, but it should be something that’s free for all, and, no questions asked kind of thing.
So I think that [counseling] would be really important and also, maybe not just for the victim, but also like anybody that was close to them and that might have been effective from the situation as well, because it affects others too, so I think that would be very important and just, just knowing that you can confide in people and it’s going to be kept in that place with the one person and not…the privacy, yes, I think that’s very big.
Narrative as found in Shireen S. Rajaram and Sriyani Tidball, “Nebraska Sex Trafficking Survivors Speak —A Qualitative Research Study,” Faculty Publications, College of Journalism & Mass Communications (2016)