The Image of Human Trafficking

Images influence movements. They shape human consciousness.

Human trafficking. What image just came to mind? Considering that human trafficking is a crime often described as the world’s most complex, a crime that creates survivors who are among the most complex of crime victims, our collective image is painstakingly primitive. It’s a sex crime. It’s a sex crime that men do to women. That image does not tell the full story.

1. Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking and the image of it carries tremendous weight in a way that, say, a young boy trafficked from Myanmar to work at a shrimp processing factory in Thailand simply cannot.

2. While men are the predominant leaders in the crime of human trafficking and, especially as it relates to sex trafficking, girls and women are the predominant victims, women also participate in the crime and have even initiated trafficking rings.

3. When considering the entire web of human trafficking — a web that includes slave labor — some of the lowest estimates say that boys and men make up 20 percent of the victims.

We desperately need to find ways to help all the various anti-slavery agencies, in all the various sectors of this crime, strike up meaningful collaborations, and we desperately need to evolve the images we use. The alternative is a dangerous stagnation, a time when more people than ever may be familiar with the term “human trafficking”, but not associate it with where the shirts on their back or the food in their shelves came from. There’s often a cost for cheap goods, and to truly get to the heart of human trafficking we must evolve our ingrained survival instinct for bargain shopping. This involves looking at ourselves — not just some imagined bearded man in a hotel room in Thailand — as possible participants in a crime.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who need us to go beyond the emotional stir of an image.

Learn more at Cameron Conaway’s Huffington Post article: Evolving Our Image of Human Trafficking.

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