The multi-billion dollar industry of human trafficking is an economic equation of supply and demand. The demand side that fuels sex trafficking consists of (mostly) men who pay for sex, watch pornography, and go to strip clubs. Without them there would be no monetary incentive to traffic women, boys, and girls into the sex trade.
On the flip side, the supply side consists of women and children whose circumstances often make them vulnerable to exploitation. In The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade, Victor Malarek talks about this vulnerability in terms of push factors. What circumstances enable a person to become a victim of sex trafficking? I believe that the number one push factor is poverty.
Traffickers will often target impoverished villages where jobs are hard to come by and families are desperate. My husband Jay recently sent me an online survey called SPENT, which outlines how difficult survival can be even in the United States. Those of us who have been raised in middle class families often do not understand how many economic or social barriers there are to getting a job, or eating healthy, or finding a safe place to live. For some of you, this survey reflects what your life is like now. Please be encouraged to keep pushing forward and know that I am cheering for you!
I took the survey and had run out of money in 17 days. I could have manipulated my answers to get a better score, but I wanted to be honest. If that is how difficult making ends meet can be for many in the United States, where there is a lot of opportunity, I cannot imagine the barriers that exist in many other countries around the world. It reminded me that desperation pushes people into vulnerable situations, like a teenager taking a job at a “modelling agency” in another country which ends up being a brothel, or a single mom allowing a boyfriend to sell her to his friends so that she can put some food on the table. Obviously not everyone whose circumstances are dire end up being trafficked or exploited, but poverty is a common thread that runs through the stories of many victims.
Want to take the survey? Keep in mind that these questions are based on life in a “land of opportunity,” and that life in chronically impoverished countries can be even more challenging.
Take the SPENT Challenge Now!
Maybe this is an opportunity for many of us to develop some compassion and understanding, and learn to withhold judgment when we see people who are down and out.