Tuesday — February 01, 2022

The Human Trafficking Series: Modern Trafficking

by: Cesar J Segura

As we have learned from the other stories included in the human trafficking series, trafficking has existed in the world for centuries. In modern times, the human trafficking industry has developed to utilize technology to increase access to victims. The use of social media and other online formats that allow instant person-to-person communication provides a sea of people that traffickers can prey on. This section will explore modern stories of survivors who were victimized utilizing technology.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear of an abuser targeting people via social media. Today, our focus will be on the gaming/ social media app "Discord," which gamers use to communicate through text and voice. The application can also allow users to communicate by sharing files. In 2019 a ring of 7 abusers was caught running a sex trafficking ring where victims were found through the Discord app.

Leo, the first victim, was 16 years old when he encountered his soon-to-be abusers. Initially, Leo signed up on Discord to connect with other players of the games he played. The sex trafficking ring messaged Leo pretending to be a friend interested in the same games he played. His parents later stated that the relationship and communication seemed like his other friends. Through what seemed like innocent conversations, the men were able to obtain personal information from Leo, including the city and state that he lived in. After months of conversation, Leo decided to cross state lines to Florida to meet his new friend. To his surprise, Leo was not greeted by a new friend but seven men in a dilapidated trailer upon arriving at the address he was given. After arriving at the trailer, Leo was sexually abused and trafficked for over a year. While his abuse was taking place, the perpetrators attempted to utilize the same method to attract further teens to abuse.

Over a year into Leo's victimization, another 17-year-old boy was lured by the sex trafficking ring. David was also lured using the Discord app. After months of grooming, members of the sex trafficking ring organized meeting David near his house to pick him up. After picking up David, the ring took him across state lines to Florida to the same trailer that Leo was being held in. Shortly after David was brought into the trailer, Leo was released. Not soon after David's capture, the perpetrators of the sex trafficking ring were arrested.

Although the perpetrators in this story were apprehended by law enforcement, human trafficking remains a largely undiscussed topic. California remains one of the states with the highest reported number of human trafficking victims, with over 1500 cases being reported in 2019 (World Population Review 2021). The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) reports that Indigenous women remain among the top percentage of human trafficking victims, with over 40% of female victims across the United States and Canada identifying as American Indian, Alaskan Native, or First Nations (2016). The NCAI also reports a list of potential vulnerabilities for the presence of human and sexual trafficking:

  1. Historical trauma and cultural loss
  2. Significant poverty and/or economic isolation/dependence
  3. High rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences in the population · High numbers of homeless and runaway youth
  4. High rates of family surveillance and involvement with the child welfare system
  5. High rates of exposure to violence (direct and/or indirect, through domestic, intimate partner violence)
  6. High rates of personal or family/caregiver addiction to substances
  7. Low levels of police or law enforcement presence
  8. An influx of a transient, cash-rich workforce

Although these vulnerabilities Furthermore, it is recommended that you do not approach someone that you fear may be trafficked or a suspected trafficker. However, if you or someone you may know has been victimized by human trafficking there are resources listed below to assist further.

Additional Resources:

Information on Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking traffickingresourcecenter.org/what-human-trafficking/recognizing-signs

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE

National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25ABUSE

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – RAINN carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. Their National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (Open 24/7) provides free, confidential, help for sexual assault victims, and their friends and families. They can also help victims find local Crisis and Counseling Centers.