By MELANIE URIBE
Celebrated throughout January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month is associated with the “Blue Campaign,” which is a movement established by the United States Department of Homeland Security to combat human trafficking across the country. Word of the movement has spread to several high schools across the nation, including Citrus Valley High School.
Citrus Valley recognized Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Friday, Jan. 11 by encouraging students to wear blue. The principal of Citrus Valley, Rhonda Bruce, also officially announced and discussed human trafficking awareness over the bulletin through that week. Several posters against trafficking violence were hung around the school grounds to establish awareness of the issue.
Misconceptions and media sometimes paint human trafficking as an underage, foreign female being kidnapped by a stranger and forced into sexual exploitation. The Polaris Project, however, states that most cases of human trafficking involve coercion and emotional manipulation. Physical harm is rarely ever necessary. Fight the New Drug, an American anti-pornography organization, estimates that 45% of human trafficking victims are male. The percentages may even be higher, but the stigma against men results in under-reporting. A grievous yet undermined fact about human trafficking is that the assailant is not always a stranger – thousands of survivors are victimized by their romantic partner or parental figure.
Victims are often unable to escape from their assailant because of language barriers, monitored communication/travel or confiscation of phones. However, victims may also choose to stay on their own accord due to Stockholm syndrome. Runaway women victims, especially ones in their youth, choose to stay with their assailant because they are convinced that they are in love. The assailant is able to convince their victim that they would never inflict any intentional harm, and everything they do is out of care. Clinging onto that need to be loved and cared for, many young women fall victim to manipulation and deceit.
The physical effects of human trafficking vary depending on the age of the victim and where the crime occurred. The victim will commonly endure starvation, concussions, sexually transmitted diseases and, for women, irregular menstrual cycles. However, the physical consequences scarcely compare to the psychological. Survivors of human trafficking often endure post-traumatic stress, recurring panic attacks, suicidal ideation and/or substance abuse. The psychological damage can be devastating and even fatal in severe circumstances. Thus, it is essential to supply the survivor with support and professional care. When unattended, trauma may leave the survivor vulnerable to sexual revictimization.
The United States State Department approximates that up to 800,000 people are trafficked every year across international borders. However, human trafficking does not only impact the United States. The International Labour Organization reports that 40 million people are victims of human trafficking globally.
The USSD organizes the world’s 195 countries into four categories: tier 1, tier 2, tier 2 watch list and tier 3. Tier 1 includes countries who meet or exceed the trafficking victims protection act ’s minimum standards. Tier 2 includes countries who do not sufficiently meet the standards but are actively attempting to comply. Tier 2 watch list countries meet the same standards as Tier 2. However, they, in addition, have a growing number of victims at a significant rate, fail to provide evidence of efforts to combat trafficking from the previous year and they are “making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards … based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.” Tier 3 encompasses countries who do not meet the T.V.P.A. standards and are making little to no effort in changing that.
Wearing blue alone is not expected to put an immediate end to human trafficking, but rather spread awareness of its importance and the 40 million individuals directly impacted. For this reason, Citrus Valley wore blue.