It’s so hard to believe that human trafficking exists in Acadiana. What is human trafficking exactly? Why aren’t we talking about it more? Why aren’t we doing more? How do we recognize the signs? Some of these questions are not easy ones to answer, as we've learned through our Department of Justice. However, as a sexual violence agency for Acadiana, we can educate our community on some of these questions by providing concrete answers.
Human trafficking occurs as either sex trafficking or forced labor/slavery. All forms of trafficking are either forced or coerced. Labor trafficking and slavery involves individuals who are compelled to work or provide a certain service to people or organizations. Sex trafficking is when extortion is used to engage adults in commercial sex (escort services, pornography, illicit massage businesses, brothels, prostitution) or when minors are compelled to perform commercial sex acts whether or not the use of force, fraud, or coercion is used. Unfortunately, many people who are actually being trafficked do not identify themselves as victims. Like many survivors of sexual violence, they have formed a relationship with their abusers.
Because many Louisianians care, many have lobbied and rallied around this issue for years on both a state and federal level. Oftentimes, things seemed to result in little or no avail. Louisiana has recently joined forces with many other states through Governor Edwards’ initiative. This is one of many steps to doing more to stop sexual violence. These funds will hopefully go towards more local police trainings on how to recognize the signs and interceed appropriately. Many are hopeful that more funding will lead to swifter arrests.
A 2018 report on human trafficking released by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services showed a 77% increase in juvenile victims identified over the past year, including more than three times as many victims age 12 and younger, compared to 2016. January is “National Human Trafficking & Slavery Awareness Month.” To learn how you can make a difference, we encourage you to click HERE and share this information with your friends and family.
Keep in mind that websites are often utilized by sex traffickers. In 2018, the federal government seized the Backpage website, which was a leading site for prostitution. The FOSTA bill now allows victims of sex trafficking to file suit against online companies that knowingly facilitate the unlawful act. The personal section on Craigslist has been shutdown in efforts to stop human trafficking. For more on this story, click HERE
This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope.