Human trafficking has been around almost as long as mankind itself, and unfortunately, is still around today. The United States, and many countries around the world, would agree that sexual exploitation, forced labor, and domestic labor are morally wrong and need to be stopped. However, despite these feelings, human trafficking is a growing business and is happening everywhere. No matter how much the United States wants us to think it is fighting this problem, it is evident that the efforts they have so far made, have been a failure.
Viewers of the media in the United States may be used to hearing about human trafficking occurring in countries such as Nicaragua, Nepal, India, China, Brazil, and more. There is a reason that the media only discusses these particular countries, and it is not because these are the only countries where sexual exploitation and forced labor occur. These cases of human trafficking seen on the news, are significant because they make the viewer believe this corrupt and evil act is not happening in the United States. These stories of young foreign victims are nothing but distractions from the reality of the problem. By putting these specific cases on the news, the United States is basically saying, “We aren’t afraid to talk about trafficking when it is happening in a different country.”
The media is being hypocritical and needs to talk about the problems right here in our own country, rather than just the problems of other countries, especially when the problems are one and the same. The American people are okay with not being told the whole truth because they would rather have a clear conscience, thinking there is nothing that they can do about these victims who live so far away. For a country with a sensitive background regarding slavery, one would think the citizens of the United States would want to know that slavery still exists in their country today. The United States government knows the severity of human trafficking in its own country, but chooses to turn a blind eye, and put the blame on the rest of the world.
The United States uses Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports to rank other countries on their involvement in the fight against human trafficking. These reports act as a disguise for the United States by calling out other countries on their lack of involvement in their trafficking problems, when they are just as guilty. In a paper in the Harvard Human Rights Journal, written by Daphna Hacker, the United States labels the rest of the world as a “Deviant other” while hiding the trafficking and abuse in their own country.
An article titled “Is the Media Hiding the Truth?” by Alexandra McDevitt gives an example of a popular United States movie that deals with the trafficking issue. “Taken” features Liam Neeson as a father who saves his daughter from being bought by a person involved in an international sex trafficking ring. This movie is a perfect example of how people are deceived by the media. This movie takes place in Europe and the ending is essentially a happy one considering the girl is “saved” in the eyes of the director and audience. By making the incident happen in Europe, the audience subconsciously correlates Europe as a place where young girls are kidnapped and sold into the world of sex trafficking. The ending of this movie is inaccurate because it does not show the mental state of the daughter after everything she has been through.
Picture a movie where a young teenage girl from America is taken from her family and is sexually exploited and abused, still in the United States. This girl is, let’s say, 13 years old and when she is found by the police, she is seen as an unruly teenager and is treated as a criminal while the trafficker is simply charged with solicitation. The American people wouldn’t like this movie nearly as much because it is uncomfortable and portrays the United States as an unsafe and corrupt country.
Human trafficking is happening not only in this country, but in this very state. According to Cindy McCain, senior adviser of The McCain Institute Human Trafficking Advisory Council, and Malika Saada Saar, executive director for Human Rights Project for Girls, Ohio is in one of the worst regions in the United States for sex trafficking. Nearly 1,000 minors are forced into sex labor each year in Ohio and of those minors many are middle-school age. Young girls at the age of 12 and 13 are viewed as child prostitutes when in reality, they are suffering from child sexual abuse. No person wants to hear about the sex trafficking of young girls happening in their country, let alone their very own state, or even their neighborhood. It is much easier for authorities to just label these girls as “child prostitutes” and juvenile delinquents.
If the United States and its citizens truly want to put an end to human trafficking, we need to admit to the problems in our own country. The media needs to stop distracting its viewers with stories in different countries around the world, and start showing the cases that occur in the United States, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel. In order to stop the hypocrisy of this country, the citizens must talk about human trafficking like it is a problem that each individual can help fight against. The United States needs to take responsibility for and acknowledge its problems rather than turn its back and act oblivious to this important issue that can be prevented.
Allison Comstock is student at Edison State Community College, where she will graduate with an associate of science degree in May. She plans to pursue her bachelor’s in nursing at Wright State University in the fall.