Being Trafficked Is Not a Choice, But Choosing Empowerment Can Be

Even when children officially turn into adults at the magical legal age of 18, adult psychologists believe that the brains of these "adults" are not yet fully developed. Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus has been quoted saying, "The idea that suddenly at 18 you're an adult just doesn't quite ring true,". An article published by BBC in September 2013 argued that hormonal activity and adolescence is reached much later than previously thought and that the real age of maturity might actually be closer to 25 instead of 18. All of these recent developments are important to keep in mind when studying the world of sex trafficking, especially in the United States.

Many Americans, as pointed out by a recent article published by BBC concerning sex trafficking, fail to consider that such an atrocity can occur in the U.S. Yet, it does. In fact, over tens of thousands of American children are believed to be trafficked every year. The article tells the stories of 3 women, how they were exploited, and sadly how they were degraded to believe that exploitation was their fault. The article powerfully shows the vulnerability of children even around legal adult age and the frightening ability of abusers to degrade these vulnerable women. The combination of their young age and abusers' entrapment makes it almost impossible for victims to break free of the prostitution cycle.

In my book, Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom , I talk about my personal experience with human trafficking as an Ambassador on Human Trafficking in Syria and Jordan in 2009. Trafficking, as I explain, is a form of modern day slavery. As the women's stories in the recent article show, "trafficking victims are trapped by a series of fraudulent misrepresentations, by coercion, threats, physical battery, and false imprisonment" (116). One victim in the article remembers being brought to a man at the mere age of 14 by her aunt. She recalls her aunt leaving her and then on return saying to her, "You were messed up, you wanted to stay." This lethal combination of abandonment in an unfamiliar setting and coercion entraps the victim in the cycle.

The best way to help victims of human trafficking is to empower them, similarly to how my organization Second Chance empowers domestic abuse victims. The women in the BBC article seek help through a support group called Breaking Free, which prevents victims from feeling alone in their struggle to break free from the prostitution cycle. Second Chance helps victims actually loosen the chains of imprisonment and permanently leave the abusive cycle. Second Chance takes measures to "facilitate economic opportunity through programs to empower the individual" (120). As I outline in my book, the Second Chance model "eliminates financial dependency under oppression, captivity, and abusive conditions like those experienced by victims of trafficking" (120). I encourage the implementation of programs like Second Chance through the government as a proven effective way to help reduce the amount of human trafficking victims in the U.S. and ultimately worldwide.