Human trafficking - what you don't know but should

Human trafficking - what you don't know but should

Bottom Line: Polaris is the largest nonprofit dedicated specifically to combating human trafficking. They've long provided a hotline and services to attempt to identify cases of human tracking, raise awareness and save lives. What I'm about to share with you isn't new. It's what you don't hear in the news. 

I've long suggested that the most pervasive form of media bias isn't what you're presented with in the news. Sure, there's no shortage of highly biased coverage in the news media but that pales in comparison to what's omitted. Throughout the course of my career I've highlighted the institutionalized racism in news media as demonstrated by what isn't perpetuated equitably in the news. Black students at Stoneman Douglas are speaking up right now about that very point. All of the attention paid by the media as they attempt to create gun control superstars out of the 17 students who're trying to create a movement - you'll notice black students aren't among them. But that's not what this story is about. 

Names like Elisabeth Smart and Natalee Holloway are household names. For weeks, months, years, their faces and stories were told and followed. What do they have in common? They fit the profile the media liked. Blonde hair - blue eyed. Even locally stories like the disappearance of Austin and Perry, again of the desired profile, are proliferated. My intent isn't to disparage any of those I've mentioned but simply to illustrate the point. Name one disappearance of a black child, or any minority child for that matter. Can you envision their faces? Their stories? It certainly isn't because there aren't examples. Way too many examples. Let's get back to Polaris. 

Last year Polaris documented 8,042 cases of human trafficking in the United States. That's an average of 22 people, predominantly children, who went missing per day in the country. Through their research they've found:

  • 73%: sex trafficked
  • 14%: labor trafficked
  • 4%: both

86% of victims are female. But here's the thing. The reason you don't hear the stories, know the faces, aren't aware of the human tragedy going on around us. 81% of the victims are minorities and the overwhelming majority of white victims are adults. This topic is gaining a bit of additional attention of late due to Congress passing a bill called the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act". The act would subject web hosting services to potential liability for traffickers who use their services. President Trump hasn't made a decision about whether to sign the bill into law. It's widely opposed by those in technology and related advocates who suggest that it wouldn't change trafficking behavior and would increase liability for those not directly responsible. 

While we await a decision on the legislation - it's my hope that this occasion can/will serve as an opportunity to shine a light on two problems. The pervasiveness of the human trafficking trade in our country, in our communities, and the institutionalized media bias, perhaps even racism, associated with what they decide is news.



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