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Human Trafficking and Sexual Slavery

Slavery’s New Face

Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls

Slavery is a harsh reality for millions of people the world over who find themselves trapped in an exploitative and abusive system, bought and sold like objects, and treated with no dignity or human decency.

How extensive is slavery’s reach? Human rights groups estimate that anywhere between 12.3 million and 27 million people are enslaved in forced or bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude at any given time.

Slavery exists in a variety of permutations, but all forms of slavery share some common characteristics: slaves are forced to work; are owned or controlled by an “employer”; are dehumanized and treated as commodities; and are physically constrained and unable to move.

One type of slavery and exploitation that continues to proliferate at an alarming rate—and that has a particular relevance to women and girls—is sex trafficking/slavery.

In 2007, Soroptimist launched a project to create awareness about this heinous practice with a special event on Sunday

December 2, 2007, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. In the United States, the program will launch on Friday, January 11, 2008, the first National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness. On both days, club members will place sex slavery awareness cards in visible locations throughout their communities — police stations, women’s centers, hospitals, etc.

If you suspect an incident of trafficking in the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 24-hour toll-free hotline number at 888-3737-888. Callers can receive a number of services including crisis intervention, urgent and non-urgent referrals, tip reporting and comprehensive anti-trafficking resources. Visit Soroptimist’s Sex Trafficking FAQ and Stop Sex Trafficking sections for more information and to get involved in the fight against the sexual slavery of women and girls.

What about the Capital Region?
Local authorities say anyone who is smuggled into New York State from Canada or kidnapped from New York City is likely traveling along the Thruway or Northway. For years, an underground bunker in a Syracuse suburb was the scene of heinous crimes.

In 2003, a retired handyman admitted to holding five women as captive sex slaves underneath his home.

Human trafficking is much more common that many people think it is.

A woman kidnapped from New York City in 2004 was taken to the Capital Region against her will.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy explains, “She was taken to an acquaintance of the trafficker and she was tied up and she was raped repeatedly.”

The phrase “human trafficking” probably makes you think of a some seedy criminal organization operating half a world away but it happens in the United States too.

People smuggled into New York State from Canada or kidnapped in New York City are most likely riding in vehicles along the Thruway and Northway.

January 11th is the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.

The victims of human trafficking are primarily women.

Mary Huber, President of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County says, “These women are someone’s mother, daughter, sister, friend…hidden behind locked doors and pulled shades…forced against their will to engage in sex acts with dozens of men a day.”

Forcing people into labor or sex trades is a $32 billion industry globally.  Estimates put U.S. victims as high as 17,000.  Worldwide victims total at least two million.  “Because it’s hidden, we cannot be sure about the exact statistics,” Huber says.  Officials are distributing pamphlets at highway rest stops to remind people of their social responsibility if they notice someone’s traveling partner doesn’t have identification or a cell phone.

New York State Police Major Patricia Groeber says, “Having common sense and that gut feeling of when to pick up the phone and call in something you see, you hear, or you become aware of is very important.”

A new law, on the books since November 1st, increases the penalties for anyone convicted of human trafficking in New York State.