Back to Basics: What is Human Trafficking

Post by: Zhanna Badasyan

Well, what IS human trafficking? For some of us, we got our first glimpse of human trafficking from Hollywood. We’ve all seen depictions of young, naïve women getting brutally kidnapped and sold into the “high-end” sex trafficking market, but they eventually get rescued by massive FBI raids, and all is well. Does this happen in the real world? Of course. Unfortunately, the truth behind the realities of the “human market” are much more complicated and devastating than what we see portrayed in mainstream Hollywood.

For many of us, human trafficking is often defined as sex trafficking of young women. The truth of the matter is that the nature of human trafficking is far more vicious than many of us realize and impacts people from all walks of life regardless of sex, gender, age, ethnicities, religions, etc. According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of human labor…”. You might think that definition hardly defines the atrocious nature of this crime against humanity, but the term Human Trafficking is an overarching umbrella over many different subsets of crimes. The illegal human black market includes: illegal sale of human organs, forced labor, immigration entrapment, forced begging, child soldiers, sexual exploitation, forced marriages, drug smuggling utilizing humans, selling children, and more.

Due to the vast and manipulative nature of these crimes, they often go unnoticed. They are unspectacular, making it difficult for most of us to spot; meanwhile, according to the International Labor Organization, there are more than 24.9 million victims trapped in modern-day slavery in the world. Of this 24.9 million, 16 million are being exploited for forced labor, 4.8 million are being sexually exploited, and 4.1 million are being exploited in state-imposed forced labor. This illegal human market rakes up nearly $150 billion annually and this is just a mere estimate since many of these criminal transactions go undetected.

The complex nature of trafficking systems is the reason we don’t see or hear about the 24.9 million enslaved humans. We tend to picture perpetrators as big bad strangers lurking somewhere, waiting to kidnap unsuspecting passersby; however, more often than not, perpetrators of human trafficking end up being family members, significant others, thought-to-be trusted guardians, friends, or employers. These criminals often manipulate vulnerable individuals who may be struggling to meet their basic needs in life by falsely promising financial assistance, housing, food, clothing or by simply by forcing them to sell their bodies or suffer brutal consequences.

Furthermore, the “typical human trafficking victim” is not so typical. As previously mentioned, trafficking occurs amongst all human groups. In fact, you may have even unsuspectedly met a victim of trafficking without realizing it because these may be the same people you go to school with, work with, or live near. Fear of retribution and potential risks to the lives of their families or themselves, many victims may not ever display obvious signs of entrapment or make themselves known to be victims. The fear-driven manipulation techniques employed by traffickers is one the main reasons victims often end up spending the rest of their lives forced to be forms of human currency.

Now, why should you care? The answer is simple: human trafficking goes completely against social justice and is rooted in the belief that one human’s life is worth less than another’s. For these reasons and more, Rahab’s Daughters is fully dedicated in fighting against human trafficking. Sam Wijeyakumar, the founder of Rahab’s Daughters, is in fact a human trafficking survivor herself and has made it part of her life’s journey to educate and raise awareness of the realities behind human trafficking, rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate survivors, and to STOP THE DEMAND through Rahab’s Daughters. Rahab’s Daughters collaborates with multiple partners such as Ironman Foundation,It’s a Penalty,Fight to End ExploitationWalgreens,Edward Jonesand many others in tackling human trafficking head-on and you can be a part of the fight too. Please visit Rahab’s Daughters website at to learn more about Sam’s story, the organization’s fight against human trafficking, and how you can step in and become a part of this movement.