Our generation has learned most of their life lessons from watching movies and binging TV shows. We can all agree that whenever movies try to shine light upon important topics, they often are partially factually incorrect, but one thing they do for sure is, make us think. I saw this episode of the popular medical drama "Grey’s Anatomy" where one of the residents, Andrew Deluca identifies and tries to tell people about the patient he suspects is a victim of human trafficking, but nobody believes him because they think he was having a manic episode.
Human trafficking is a heinous act and a serious crime, I knew this but after seeing that episode, I became more aware and started reading about this further. What do you think a victim of this grave deed looks like? Wearing uncomfortably short clothes, dark circles, baggy eyes, exhausted, bruised, too scared to talk? These are some stereotypes that these sufferers have been put into. In the episode I saw, Opal was the woman and leader of the trafficking ring, who pretended to be the aunt of a teenage girl (victim) Cindy, who had to be taken to the hospital to get checked. The way this show portrayed the situation, be it the fear in the teenagers yes or the ‘’aunt’’ not letting the patient speak, answering all the questions for her, not leaving her alone, not caring for her pain, etc. it all seems very well portrayed as to how a person exercised their control over their victims.
What is human trafficking?
Every year millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide, no matter how safe you think your country is. Trafficking is the act of forcing or coercing fellow human beings into doing labor or commercial sexual acts. These victims are sold by their poor families, kidnapped from public places, lured out using some fraud scheme, and then sold for prostitution or taken to perform various activities like domestic work, forcefully making them beg and even to remove their organs. People of any age, race, caste or, gender, can be victims and they are often manipulated with the idea of a stable job or some other thing they might need. These traffickers prey on people they think are gullible or who are facing financial or emotional problems, or people who are psychologically vulnerable or the ones rejected by their families or society. Most of the people trafficked today for manual labor or sex acts are female.
If you think that they have the opportunity to ask for help or escape when in public, you are wrong. These people are majorly threatened that if they take any steps, or try contacting anyone, their and their family’s lives would be in danger. Fear is deeply instilled in them by using words and weapons.
Not all victims of human trafficking are safely found and returned to their families, and the fortunate ones that do come back, are sometimes rejected by their families and sent to live in shelters. Hundreds of children and adults have been prone to these acts and if saved by the police or people working to stop trafficking, they are mistreated and ignored by society. Nobody helps them to deal with the physical and mental abuse they are subjected to, and they are not given the proper treatment to cope up and heal from the trauma caused by those criminals. Surviving also takes a mental toll after what the victims witness and go through. They often have suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and survivor’s guilt.
30th July is marked as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and this year’s theme for celebrating is "Victims’ Voices Lead the Way". This puts the sufferers at the center of discussion and displays the importance of listening and empathizing with human trafficking victims in the foreground. These victims need to be heard, their trauma needs to be understood, we need to learn from their experiences and stop this monstrous activity. We need to be more aware of our surroundings and be informed so that when we have a chance, we don’t ignore the signs and help these people by identifying the victims.
Some questions you can ask yourself when in suspicion and you observe some indicators:
Does this person seem detached from friends, family, and surroundings?
Does the person look apprehensive, perplexed, scared, or have any signs of psychological or physical abuse?
Do you see an unusual amount of scars of different intensities on this person’s body?
Is there someone always accompanying them? Talking for them? Controlling them? Guarding them and communicating with them in a way that looks threatening?
Does the person avoid eye contact, talk repetitively or speak very few words; like they’ve been told how/when to talk?
Does the person look deprived/ living in unsuitable conditions and lack any personal possessions?
If the majority of these questions are answered by a 'yes', you should immediately try to help the person by contacting the nearest law enforcement around you and not by confronting the person yourself, as it might land you and the victim in danger.
Many sufferers of abuse and trafficking, are held accountable for the illegal activities they were forced to do when captive, they are also stigmatized and deprived of things, these add up to the post-rescue trauma they deal with. They do not have people to understand or support them, this is where you can come in.
Some things we as people can do to support and help human trafficking victims:
Do not negate their experience, they are extremely vulnerable. Lend a shoulder to them and try to understand what they are feeling. Tell them good things about themselves, the abuse would have made them feel mentally torn and damaged their self-esteem.
Support them, help them feel normal again. Help them get opportunities. Communicate and let them know that what happened was not their fault and that they deserve the best.
Get professional help for them, physically and psychologically. Many victims can’t cope up with the trauma and need someone to talk to and help them to get through. The physically abused sufferers might also have internal injuries, so come up with adequate medical help for them.
Provide food and shelter or find a place that does.
Poor children are often easy targets for trafficking and abuse, you can sponsor and provide for a child wherever needed and kill two birds with one stone. It will help decrease poverty, illiteracy, and their chances of being abused will decrease.
Donate money, food, and clothes to shelters doing their best to support victims.
Participate in the Blue Campaign and get awareness training about various indicators of this crime and what you can do to help.
Try to have accurate information and help shatter the myths and misconceptions regarding this situation.
No steps taken are small. Be more observant and empathetic.
India is considered to be in the top 10 countries to have the largest numbers of victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. It is also where most victims are treated with insensitivity and inhumanely. The lack of humanity and conscience has made many people suffer already. There are helplines set up for such people, accessible shelters, and counselors available. We as a society need to be more aware and act towards beheading this abominable business.