Immigrants, particularly those who do not have legal authorization, are vulnerable to many different abuses at the hands of unscrupulous people. Of all the issues facing immigrants, human trafficking is one of the most dangerous. Victims of human trafficking suffer abuse, exploitation, and degradation. Often, the conditions under which these victims live are a modern-day version of slavery. Recent estimates indicate that nearly 20,000 persons are trafficked into the United States every year, with a substantial number trafficked into Florida.
“Human trafficking” is generally defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain a victim to engage in involuntary servitude or slavery, to participate in sexual activity, or to be held in peonage or debt bondage. Human trafficking can take many different forms. Some victims are promised employment, only to find themselves owing money to their employers and never able to work off their debt. Others are forced to become prostitutes, domestic servants, or laborers without pay. Fear of their traffickers, or of law enforcement, keeps many of these victims from escaping. Others may be afraid that if they leave their traffickers, they will be arrested or have nowhere to go.
Fortunately, there are organizations fighting against human trafficking. One example is the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT), which exists to help trafficking victims escape their situations. FCAHT can help trafficking victims find a safe place to live, obtain medical care, and end their abuse. FCAHT will assist victims in working with law enforcement in a safe, non-threatening environment to see their traffickers brought to justice. Perhaps most importantly, FCAHT helps victims recover their dignity as human beings.
If you are a victim of trafficking or if you believe you know someone who is, please contact the FCAHT main office at (239) 390-3350, (866) 630-3350, or (888) 373-7888 (24 hours). A trained FCAHT representative will determine if a human trafficking situation exists and assist the victims in receiving help. Don’t delay. Your life – or the life of someone you care about – may be at stake.
For further information about FCAHT, please see www.stophumantrafficking.org.
Originally published in August 2008, updated 2011