Letter From The President

Trafficking: The Crime Nobody Wants to Talk About

Dear Members,

Back in June our esteemed member Michele Yarberry, LPC posted in the ISSTDWorld Member Forum a very impressive movie trailer link.

This true-story-informed trailer reminds us of the urgency of expanding education, treatment, and prevention both nationally and internationally, and specifically across borders so our children, including those “womb babies” are protected from conception.

Since 30 July is the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons allow me to briefly give voice to this tragic global problem, identify current responses and provide learning resources.

The largest hotline of its kind in the world, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC’s) CyberTipline, receives about one million reports of child sexual exploitation each month and as of April 2019 collected more than 45 million reports. The Canadian Centre’s International Survivors’ Survey  noted that 87% of their participants were 11 years old or younger when hands-on abuse began, and for 56% the abuse began before they were age four. Approximately 36% of the survivors endured abuse into adulthood.

According to Save the Children,

  • Human trafficking can include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, debt bondage, recruitment of children as child soldiers, and/or sex trafficking and forced prostitution.  
  • Human trafficking is not the same thing as smuggling, which are two terms that are commonly confused.
  • Trafficking does not require movement across borders. In fact, in some cases, a child could be trafficked and exploited from their own home. In the U.S., trafficking most frequently occurs at hotels, motels, truck stops and online.
  • Trafficking can involve force, but people can also be trafficked through threats, coercion, or deception. People in trafficking situations can be controlled through drug addiction, violent relationships, manipulation, lack of financial independence, or isolation from family or friends, in addition to physical restraint or harm.
  • Trafficking occurs all over the world, though the most common forms of trafficking can differ by country.  The United States is one of the most active sex trafficking countries in the world, where exploitation of trafficking victims occurs in cities, suburban and rural areas. Labor trafficking occurs in the U.S., but at lower rates than most developing countries.

Current criminal definitions are too unclear or restrictive resulting in a vast amount of abusive, sadistic, sexualized, and harmful related images remaining online. Noticeably, extreme physical abuse videos and images often involving bondage and torture are infrequently being addressed. Technological companies impressively vary in their level of commitment. Their pledge to ban, prohibit and remove images is inconsistent to say the least, and while some of these companies are fast and pro-active to protect children others remain indifferent. 

Lack of clear regulations and significant legislation continues to allow many to work independently avoiding needed and regulated image, film, television and video removals. Clear guidelines and legislation demanding removal of sexualized, rape, sadistic and physically abusive images of children and adults is needed. The visual continuum of allowed abuse content needs to stop even if this does not overtly and specifically meet criminal norms.

Governments around the world need to take an exemplary role in protecting our children, vulnerable adults, and our elderly. International societies must demand it!

As members of the ISSTD we need to take a leadership role in placing the interest of children at the center of these important discussions.

Please join me in hearing the voices that are hard to hear, but should be heard, and to protect children’s safety, dignity, and privacy. Let us start an informal campaign or at least commit to continue to place the survivor’s wellness and safety in the forefront by using their audio statements, direct quotes, podcasts, articles, related links, and videos to promote social awareness about this international crisis.

Protect Children
Save the Children
Trafficking Matters
Human Trafficking Search