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Dehumanization and Human Trafficking

Racism: dehumanization of human beings based on the color of their skin.

Sexism: Dehumanization of a person based on their biology and/or their expected or chosen gender roles.

“Homophobia”: dehumanization of a person based on their sexual orientation.

“Isms” are founded in the idea that somehow a specific group of human beings are somehow less than human. It leads to the mistreatment of others and it fuels systems of human trafficking.

Small actions and phrases build up overtime and affect how we think. The frog will hop out of boiling water, but will slowly die as the temperature increases. (Actually this is an old wives’ tale, but it serves a purpose by making a point.) By allowing everyday seemingly small actions take place, we are slowly harming ourselves. For example, when we talk about certain groups we even lose the humanity as the subject--somehow an adjective becomes a noun. “Females” “Gays” “Blacks” “Asians” The “human,” “person,” “people,” “community” are all lost.

When someone speaks out against a sexist or racist joke or action they are not being overly sensitive. They are simply asking the “jokester” to tap into their humanity so we can preserve our collective humanity in the world.

Racism and sexism fuel human trafficking. Fighting racism and sexism in turn fight against human trafficking. For more information on the interconnectedness, continue reading below.

Intersection of Trafficking, Childhood Abuse, and Minority Groups

Trafficking of Children:

According to the US DOJ, the average age at which an individual enters the “sex industry” is 12-14 years. Actively supporting “sex workers,” gives buyers a way to rationalize paying to sexually abuse a child– “He looks 18.” Or “She says she’s 18.” Then in hindsight, “How was I supposed to know?” Others come to the trafficker’s defense, and blame the girl or boy for “being untruthful.” An abused, trafficked child is blamed for the actions of an adult.

“Statistics show that as many as 90% of prostituted youth have been sexually or physically abused and many have run away from home to escape such abuse only to encounter far worse on the streets.” –GEMS

Trafficking Among Indigenous Women in North America:

“Native American women and girls trafficked into prostitution previously experienced sexual and physical abuse as children and adults at alarming rates. Service providers characterize childhood sexual abuse as the key experience “setting the stage for Native girls’ entry into the sex trade.” Of the prostituted Native women interviewed for Garden of Truth, 79% had been sexually abused as children, by an average of four men. Likewise, a Canadian study of 150 trafficked Aboriginal youth found that 80% had been physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally abused in their homes. This correlation is disconcerting given DOJ data showing that Native American women are over 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States generally. More than one in three [Native American women] will be raped in their lifetime, usually by a non-Native individual; the figure for the general U.S. population is less than one in five.” –Native American Women’s Resource Center Bring them to Justice:

Normalization by Victims:

“Advocates say that Mary’s ability to normalize her life as a child prostitute is common among Native girls who have been frequently exposed to sexual abuse and violence. Research in the Shattered Hearts report also found that Native girls and women who exchange sex for food and shelter don’t consider the acts to be prostitution. They are simply doing what they have to do to stay alive, engaging in survival sex.” --Native Girls Are Being Exploited and Destroyed at an Alarming Rate:

Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth:

“LGBTQ youth face higher rates of discrimination, violence, and economic instability than their non-LGBTQ peers. When faced with fewer resources, employment opportunities, or social supports, LGBTQ youth who are away from home must find ways to meet their basic needs and may therefore enter the street economy, engaging in commercial sex to meet these needs. It is difficult for many individuals who have been trafficked to reach out for assistance, but this is especially true for individuals who fear that they will be mistreated or not believed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Studies have found that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in detention for prostitution-related offenses and report higher levels of police misconduct than their straight peers.” Read more here: Polaris Project

Racism and Human Trafficking:

“This Article explores the role of race in the prostitution and sex trafficking of people of color, particularly minority youth, and the evolving legal and social responses in the United States. Child sex trafficking has become a vital topic of discussion among scholars and advocates, and public outcry has led to safe harbor legislation aimed at shifting the legal paradigm away punishing prostituted minors and toward greater protections for this vulnerable population. Yet, policymakers have ignored the connection between race and other root factors that push people of color into America’s commercial sex trade.” Racial Roots of Human Trafficking:

“Racism is woven throughout the horrifying tapestry that is human trafficking. To ignore that fact is to miss the mark completely. To advocate for the freedom of trafficked girls is to boldly acknowledge the connections between race, gender, and child sex trafficking.”


This blog was written by Restore One intern, Kari Carr.