How FOX and Bones got it Right on Human Trafficking

FOX HT Last night I was ALONE in the house at 7:00 and wiped from a community anti-trafficking meeting I facilitate. Plop on the couch with a glass of red and my gluten free (yuck) pasta and remote. All I wanted to do: Veg. Options with our antenna derived channels? Big Bang Theory. Biggest Loser. Bones. No matter how wiped I am, I will still choose trauma and drama over comedy and reality any day. I'm sorry. This is me.

So Bones it is and I've already missed some of it, but when I tune in I am clearly watching a human trafficking episode. A group of Asian women have been brought into the U.S. for labor trafficking. They are discovered in a dirty room, some with bruises and evidence of brutality, all with pictures of their families back home.

They were not kidnapped. They are not chained.

But they were lied to, manipulated, and threatened. As the State Department agent says (basically), "It's far easier than kidnapping." They are all scared for life, but not theirs. Their loved ones have been threatened and they have complied with the trafficker in order to protect their children, husband, or relatives.

Kudos to FOX for tackling Human Trafficking. I'm sure there are many such episodes on Law and Order and CSI type shows and I believe that this level of Prime-Time awareness will gradually increase reporting and investigation and eventually decrease human trafficking.

A few corrections:

1. While it is true that trafficking rings of this fashion exist in the U.S., we need to be careful to not overly focus on internationals and neglect the domestic problem. Estimates say that between 14,000- 17,000 foreigners are trafficked in the U.S. each year whereas it is estimated that 100,000 American children are sex trafficked. The numbers are staggeringly different and media needs to reflect this. Nicholas Kristof's coverage of the teens suing Backpage.com for allowing them to be sold reflects this.

2. The State Department agent seemed more focused on the legal status of the women rather than their victimization. Foreign victims of human trafficking qualify for a T-Visa and are eligible to remain in the US under certain conditions.

Some praises:

1. The same agent correctly identified the use of coercion by the trafficker as a more powerful tool than force. A smart trafficker will threaten a loved one to coerce a person to do what they want, never laying a hand on the victim. Physical brutality is usually reserved for later when the victim begins to resist. While force, fraud, and coercion are the three means by which trafficking occurs, coercion is the most widely used, especially in the U.S.

2. The police uncovered the person at the top of the crime ring, a non-Asian business-woman, thereby taking down an entire industry, not just recovering a few victims. While this process rarely occurs within days (hours!) of an investigation, it is a vital part of ending human trafficking.

************************** If you are still wrapping your head around human trafficking, especially as it impacts your reality, consider some of these resources. If you are a parent, stunned by the estimate of 100,000 American kids being sex trafficked in our country, take a few minutes to read this Fact Sheet prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Lastly, consider these words by William Wilberforce, "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”