There has been a lot of misinformation with regard to child sex trafficking in the United States, as well as how it plays out. As such, I thought it was important to dedicate a blog post solely to the facts on child sex trafficking, how it plays out, and where one can go to learn more about and properly advocate for child sex trafficking victims as well as help put an end to it.
I should start by noting that child sex trafficking isa serious issue, yet the data is a little shaky on what the true extent of it is. I am not saying this to sound paranoid, but instead to point out that it has been difficult to get good estimates on exactly how many children are victims of child sex trafficking each year. Several years ago, it was estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood 10,000 children a year are victims of sexual exploitation in the United States, but that number could be as low as 4,500 or as high as 21,000. However, even if the number of children experiencing sex trafficking each year is closer to 4,500, it is 4,500 too many. It is a serious problem.
Not only is this a serious problem, but it may surprise some people as to who is trafficked and how child sex trafficking plays out. For example:
Even though it may be tempting to believe that the majority of child trafficking victims in the U.S. comes from foreign countries, most domestic trafficking victims are American citizens.
Even though a common stereotype of trafficked victims is that they are kidnapped, fewer than 10% of child sex trafficking cases involve kidnapping. However, causes of child sex trafficking are varied and complicated.
Traffickers often prey on economically and socially vulnerable children—for example, children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, children in poverty, and children on the streets.
Statistically, children who are Native Americans or LGBTQ+ are among the youth most vulnerable to child sex trafficking.
As to where one should turn for information and advocacy on this issue, I strongly urge people to turn to organizations with a long record on human trafficking issues. Organizations such as the Polaris Project and Anti-Slavery International are dedicated to educating people properly on child sex trafficking, and human trafficking issues in general, so that they can be empowered to tackle this issue in whatever ways they are able. Additionally, such organizations are focused on anti-human trafficking issues worldwide—important since human trafficking is really a global issue, even if this blog post focuses on how one aspect of human trafficking (child sex trafficking) plays out in the United States.
I would also recommend supporting organizations that support the types of children who are most likely to be vulnerable to child sex trafficking and/or advocate for children most likely to be vulnerable. Organizations like Prevent Child Abuse America (dedicated to preventing child abuse in the United States), Covenant House (focused on providing housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness), and True Colors United (which focuses on LGBTQ+ youth homelessness) all serve groups of people most likely to become victims of child sex trafficking. As such, support of the work of organizations such as these, and others I did not mention here, should be seen as part of a strategy of limiting child sex trafficking by limiting the number of vulnerable children in the first place.
I also urge people in the media to promote organizations that are doing crucial work on this issue. There needs to be coverage on the facts that: a) child sex trafficking is a serious issue in this country and b) there are organizations out there working hard to address this issue. For the sake of making sure the general public is informed on both the problem of child sex trafficking as well as solutions to it, news media needs to do this. The well-being of vulnerable children depends on it.
Last, but not least, I encourage all of us to make sure that we’re educated on how child sex trafficking plays out, so that we know how to talk with our friends and neighbors about how it exists and what legitimate efforts there are to combat it. Without that education, it is impossible for us to understand how the issue plays out, let alone how it can be addressed.
Back in February, I said that on my blog, I would publish posts on major issues relevant to the election that are either misunderstood or not talked about as much as they should be.
By working on such posts, I found myself getting some insights into the upcoming election for President of the United States that I would otherwise not have. Because of those insights, as well as the fact that my blog talks about injustices that need to be addressed, I thought I would end these posts by talking about who I will vote for and why.
I’m voting for Joe Biden because, of all the candidates in the race, I think he gives the best shot at playing a role in addressing injustices. His past track record, while imperfect, gives me that belief.
On the issue of ableism and disability justice, Biden cosponsored some important legislation on this issue. He was a Senate cosponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was landmark legislation for people with disabilities. Earlier in his Senate career, he cosponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which required equal educational access in all public schools for kids with physical and mental disabilities. While there is still much to do to make all corners of our country as accessible as they need to be, the passage of these laws, which was made a bit easier by Biden’s support and cosponsorship in both cases, was nevertheless useful. His support of such legislation gives me hope that with disability rights issues, he would reject the argument that something is “too expensive” or “too impractical” to be made accessible—arguments I often hear against making certain things accessible.
Those who are familiar with human trafficking issues would know that arguably the most important piece of American legislation when it comes to anti-human trafficking laws is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)—without its existence, traffickers couldn’t be prosecuted as easily, and victims wouldn’t be protected as easily. The person who introduced the reauthorization of the Act in the Senate in 2008 was…Joe Biden. As someone who used to help with anti-human trafficking education myself, I think it’s important for me to set the record straight on this issue because it has only come up in this election in the context of a sex trafficking conspiracy theory (one that Trump has praised the supporters of) that has complicated the work of organizations that are trying to combat human trafficking.
Speaking of Biden authoring things, while his authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill was controversial in many ways, one major positive of that overarching bill was the Violence Against Women Act, which among other things helped establish a Domestic Violence Hotline. A hotline that has come of great use during the pandemic exists in large part due to Biden’s efforts.
On environmental issues, Biden, while not perfect, is still eons better than Trump. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has a scorecard that grades politicians based on which environmental measures they do or do not support, as well as which environmental regulatory rollbacks they do and do not support. Biden’s lifetime score is 83%, which is not as good as the 91% held by Bernie Sanders or the 96% held by Elizabeth Warren. But, his main opponent is Trump, who in LCV’s own words, said about Trump’s environmental grade in his first year in office that: “However, to simply award Trump an ‘F’ does not come close to capturing both the breadth and depth of his administration’s assault on environmental protections and the harm it is causing communities across the country – all to provide favors to the wealthiest corporate polluting interests.”
These are some of the positive things on Joe Biden’s record, and I’m not even coming close to mentioning all the positive things (just a few that should be highlighted). However, as I said, his record is not perfect. I mentioned his Crime Bill on my blog, which is part of a larger dubious record he has when it comes to racial justice issues; there’s also the fact that he supported restrictions that prevented openly gay individuals from serving in the military, supported the Defense of Marriage Act (restricting marriage so that it’s between one man and one woman), and poorly handled the Anita Hill hearing, to name a few of the more problematic parts of his record. A charitable view of Biden’s record is that when someone is in public service for nearly five decades, there are bound to be some major mistakes within that record. A less charitable view would look at his record as evidence of his being a person who would add to injustices, instead of resolving them.
I tend to take a line down the middle—yes, he’s been in public service for a long time, but he does have some injustices to answer to. He has answered by expressing regret for how he handled the Anita Hill situation as well as for past anti-LGBTQ+ positions and the Crime Bill.
More cynical individuals may think that such expressions of regret are just for political expediency and/or are woefully inadequate; I most certainly understand the cynicism because politics can be so cynical at times. However, unlike President Trump, Biden has demonstrated the capacity to not just apologize but back it up with actions to show that he has learned from past mistakes. Of note was the fact that not only did he end up regretting his past positions that were unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights, but he backed it up by: a) supporting same-sex marriage and b) forcing President Obama’s hand on support of same-sex marriage (by the admission of Obama administration officials). On a number of issues, but particularly racial justice, I sincerely hope that Biden demonstrates a similar capacity to back up his remorse for certain past stances of his (such as authoring the Crime Bill) with action (such as trying to find solutions to the issue of mass incarceration against people of color that many believe he helped create).
Even with the positives I found with Biden, some may be wondering why I’m not suggesting voting for a third party or not voting at all. Especially since I live in New York, some might argue that I could do either without having an impact on the election.
The answer is that I am voting third party, as I will be voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line (a third party that exists in some states, including New York). I think that it is important for me to vote for Biden and I think it is important for third parties to have a voice as well—by voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line, it’s the best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.
I also never considered not voting. I never considered that for two reasons: first, because I was able to distinguish key differences between Trump and Biden on issues that matter to me; and second, because I want my voice to be heard on local elections too (even though all my seats locally are heavily Democratic overall).
So there’s my breakdown of how I judged between the two major party candidates, and how I decided to vote for Biden. While I’m not as enthusiastic about Biden as some people are, I’ve concluded that it’s the best choice out of all the choices presented to me in this election from the standpoint of addressing injustices. And, given the fact that Biden seems more willing than Trump to follow the science when it comes to COVID, it’s a choice that I hope will save some lives.
I will be interested to hear others’ thoughts on the election, though! Feel free to comment below.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my opinions alone and does not represent an endorsement by any organization with which I am associated.
 I know many people have already voted. But this post is directed at those who have not already voted (or those who have but are curious to hear what I have to say).
 I am focusing on his past track record because I think looking at a track record of nearly five decades can be instructive in determining what sorts of issues he may stand for in the next 4-8 years—potentially even more instructive than looking at his platform.
 I am not going to use tons of space in this post talking about Trump. There are lots of posts on the internet talking about Trump’s negatives. Instead, I’m going to use space here to talk about some positive elements of Biden’s record, because it’s important not just to vote against someone, but for someone.
Every Valentine’s Day, Easter, birthday, and Christmas, many of us in the United States like to give chocolate to friends and/or family. Most of us look forward to getting that sweet goodness during those times of year.
For better or for worse, I’m about to sour that sweetness because of some ugly truths about slavery and chocolate.
Namely, there is a good chance that the chocolate you eat was made by slaves. But not just any slaves. Child labor.
A variety of sources have widely reported on how the three major American chocolate manufacturers—Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars (the makers of M&Ms)—all produce chocolate made with child labor. It has been a persistent problem, and a problem that isn’t getting resolved quickly.
Fortune Magazine best describes this problem in an article they wrote about the issue:
“The major chocolate companies—from Mars to Nestlé to Hershey—are heavily reliant on these countries for their cocoa supply. Most of the cocoa is produced on small farms by farmers living in extreme poverty. That poverty often leads to child labor. In 2001, after persistent media reports about child labor abuses and trafficking stirred outrage, the chocolate industry pledged to end the practices in Ivory Coast and Ghana by 2005. But progress has been slow.”
To give context on just how slow the progress has been, the article said that the industry made the pledge to end child labor by 2005. Fortune wrote this in 2016. Yes, you heard it: twenty freaking sixteen, eleven years after these companies promised to get their acts straight.
These companies, among others, have repeatedly broken their promises to end these practices. This is unacceptable.
But what can we, as regular people, do to end these practices? Especially if we don’t have the power to singlehandedly end these practices of child labor?
We must start by voting with our wallets, by refusing to buy chocolate that is made with child labor. I know it is tempting to buy those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or a Nestlé Crunch when you’re about to check out at the grocery store or drug store, but we should do all that we can to resist this temptation. Even if just one of us refuses to buy chocolate made by slaves, that one person is taking is taking an important moral stand. But if millions of us take that stand, we can hurt the profits of these companies until such point that they hopefully turn their backs on child labor.
But that’s not the only thing we can do. If you are a restaurateur or a college that owns and operates your own dining services, you can refuse to use products in your food from chocolate companies that use child labor. If you are an educator, educate yourself and your students on the fact that slavery still exists and helps produce some of the food we eat. If you invest in stocks, refuse to invest in companies such as Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé—if people sell stocks (or refuse to buy stocks) from companies like these en masse, in protest of their child labor practices, that can effect much more change than what I can do on this small but growing blog. Regardless of what your profession is (if any), there’s a chance that you can do more than simply refuse to buy your favorite candy bar at the grocery store.
As an alternative, we should instead buy, and invest in, cocoa that is not made with child labor. By purchasing chocolate which is Fair Trade Certified or is “Bean to Bar,” then the chocolate is generally not made with child labor. These companies, not companies which use child labor, should get our money.
However, I acknowledge that it takes a level of economic privilege to afford anything other than the cheap chocolate at the grocery store, and that people might not be able to afford excluding themselves to Fair Trade chocolate. For people in this position, I encourage you to reduce your chocolate intake as much as possible. Anyway, even without the issue of slave labor, chocolate is not the healthiest thing in the world! It just so happens to be that so much chocolate is being made with child labor. As a result, there is even more motivation than there would be otherwise to avoid many of the mass-marketed and mass-produced chocolate brands.
Yes, it is a not-so-sweet truth that child labor exists in the production of so much of the chocolate we eat. However, I remain hopeful that we can all do something to confront this problem.
Note: With Valentine’s Day, a day for purchasing chocolates, coming up, I thought I would re-publish this old post of mine.
“We need to be tough on crime. We need to crack down on illegal immigration.”
Such is the rallying cry of President Donald Trump and many Republicans in particular. That rallying cry is part of why the government is shut down over the issue of a wall, as of the time of my writing this.
But it’s not just a Trump, Republican, or conservative thing to be tough on immigration. I say that because Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, saw more people deported in his eight years than every 20th century President of the United States combined. And through it all, many Democrats seemed not to care, pay attention, and/or say anything. This tough approach to illegal immigration includes people who like to view themselves as “bleeding-heart liberals.”
The consequences of this tough approach are disastrous for efforts to combat human trafficking.
One example of tough immigration policy hurting anti–human trafficking efforts is with President Trump’s policy with people who get denied a “T visa.” A T visa is a visa that allows victims of human trafficking, regardless of immigration status, to stay in the United States, to work, and to access benefits; people can do all of this while working with law enforcement on their human trafficking cases. People who have been denied T visas in the past were generally still allowed to stay in the United States without any problem. However, under this administration, there is now a new set of guidelines that endangers trafficked individuals: “But under the new guidelines, denial of a T visa will trigger an automatic summons for a hearing before an immigration judge — known as a ‘notice to appear.’ Legal experts say such a notice effectively marks the start of the deportation process.” To make matters worse, it has simultaneously been made more difficult than before for victims of human trafficking to receive T visas. The consequence of such a tough approach to trafficked individuals who are undocumented is disastrous, according to many experts, because it creates a reluctance for trafficked victims to come forward. This reluctance to come forward, which is the result of tough immigration policy such as this, only helps traffickers and hurts the trafficked.
The T visa debacle, however, is only part of an anti-migrant stance of Presidents Trump and Obama that has hurt efforts to combat human trafficking. Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said that, “The dirty little secret about trafficking in this environment of 2.5 million deportations under President Obama and now President Trump’s obvious anti-migrant stance is there has not been a political will to really find people. I just don’t think we’ve been looking for trafficked people.” The Global Slavery Index, which is a global study of modern-day slavery conditions by country, likewise gave a stern rebuke of modern American immigration policy: “A survey of service providers conducted by Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), Freedom Network USA, and Polaris in 2017 found that new immigration enforcement policies and practices are increasing their clients’ vulnerability to human trafficking.” Talk that is tough on migrants and supportive of walls may score political points, but it certainly does not seem to help any efforts on human trafficking. Once again, that is of benefit to traffickers and of hurt to the trafficked.
Granted, not all victims of human trafficking in the United States are illegal immigrants. As a result, issues with combatting human trafficking go well beyond confronting immigration issues. Nevertheless, one who is passionate about human trafficking issues would want to do everything possible on all fronts to reduce human trafficking, and that includes dealing with immigration policies that hurt the nation’s efforts in addressing human trafficking.
It may be politically popular at times to be tough on illegal immigration, and politically unpopular to relax certain stances on illegal immigration and deportations. However, sometimes the best thing to do is the unpopular thing to do. In this case, maybe the best thing to do is to change policies on immigration enforcement so that the United States does not create an even greater problem with trafficking.
I am a big fan of soccer/football, also known by some who love the sport as “the beautiful game.” It’s to the point that my own Twitter feed notes my support of a long-suffering team in the second tier of the English footballing system.
Given my fandom of soccer/football, what I am about to say breaks my heart: the World Cup, on every occasion in recent memory, is not just a soccer/footballing spectacle, but also a spectacle in human rights violations.
For example, various forms of slavery often have a presence at the World Cup. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already gaining notoriety for using forced labor, even though that World Cup is four years away (if it even still happens in Qatar, which is no guarantee). Sadly, the problem is not limited to Qatar—in each of the three World Cups previous to 2018, issues with sex trafficking were widespread. World Cup hosts such as Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010) had major issues with this, and a World Cup child trafficking bid was foiled just yesterday.
Furthermore, labor abuses are commonplace while these nations prepare for the World Cup. Much of the attention is on Russia right now since they’re hosting, and rightfully. As of the middle of 2017, it was reported that as many as 17 people have died in preparations for the World Cup as a result of labor abuses. However, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar also deserves attention for all the people who died as a result of labor abuses while preparing for their World Cup. Lamentably, labor abuses are frequently an issue while nations prepare for the World Cup.
For all that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has drawn criticism for its human rights violations (and rightfully so), human rights violations sadly seem to exist at every World Cup, no matter where it is held. Qatar is bad with its human rights violations, but this doesn’t mean that we should hold the current World Cup hosts or the previous ones as beacons for justice in the midst of their preparing for their World Cups.
All of the injustice that is tied to these World Cups begs the following question: How do we respond? Some of us have responded or will respond by not watching the World Cup at all, in protest of these human rights abuses. Others of us will turn a blind eye and watch the World Cup, for one reason or another. But then there are people like me, people who are torn between a game they love and human rights violations they hate.
I personally haven’t been able to reconcile these two tensions, the tension between the soccer/football I love and the hatred of human rights violations that play out at every World Cup. However, I think a good start is to at least inform ourselves of the various human rights violations that happen at every World Cup. That’s the least we can do.