Human trafficking is a criminal activity that steals the victim’s freedom for profit. Victims are tricked, defrauded, or physically forced to sell sex or work illegally under inhuman conditions. The International Labor Organization reports that this multi-billion-dollar criminal industry denies freedom to 40.3 million people globally.
The International Labor Organization also estimates that each victim of trafficking in the U.S. and other developed nations generates $80,000 or more in annual profits for traffickers.
Types of Human Trafficking
Sex Trafficking uses force, fraud or coercion to sell sex. It includes outdoor solicitation, pornography, escort services, brothels, beauty salons, strip clubs and illicit massage parlors.
Many of the women trafficked into sex work in America end up working in illegal massage parlors, with at least 9,000 of them in operation throughout the U.S. This is big business, and the illicit massage sector is estimated to generate more than $2.5 billion in profits every year.
Labor Trafficking uses fraud, force, or coercion to work in domestic work, agriculture, restaurants, carnivals, construction, child-care, and cleaning services. Many of the people forced to work in these industries are brought to the country illegally, have no passport and receive little or no money.
But how bad is the problem at a local level? Is there an issue with human trafficking in Louisiana?
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to identify the exact numbers of victims of human trafficking. This criminal activity operates in the shadows, and statistics rely on figures provided by various reports identifying victims who have been rescued, who have managed to seek help, or who have been arrested by law enforcement for sex work or other crimes.
Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services compiles an annual report based on their statistics as well as data from several other agencies. According to the 2018 report:
• 744 victims were identified either as confirmed victims of trafficking or having been at threat of being trafficked.
• 710 were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (95.43%).
• 7 were trafficked for labor.
• 18 were trafficked for labor and sexual exploitation.
• For the remaining 9, the type of trafficking was not reported.
• Out of the 744 victims, 57.53% (428) were identified as juveniles.
• Within the group of 710 victims trafficked for sexual exploitation, the age range was from 5 months to 65 years.
• 42 of the sexual exploitation victims were aged 12 or younger.
• The racial breakdown of the 744 victims was: African American 366 (49%), White 233 (31%), Asian, 8 (1%), Multiracial 25 (3%), Others, 58 (8%), and Unknown 54 (7%).
• The parishes most frequently identified as trafficking locations were Caddo, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans.
Where It’s Happening
According to the Administration for Children and Families, the top sex trafficking venues include:
• Commercial-front brothels
• Online advertising
• Escort services
For labor trafficking, the most common industries are:
• Foodservice and restaurants
• Domestic work
• Traveling sales crews
More Needs to Be Done
While the state legislature has made some progress in preventing and raising awareness of human trafficking in Louisiana, more still needs to be done.
Punishing the perpetrators and helping survivors rebuild their lives should be a priority. Although the Department of Safety and Corrections can divert juveniles who have been trafficked away from prosecution, this is fund-dependent and not mandatory. Adult victims of trafficking who are arrested have the added stigma of convictions on their record.
Whatever their path to being victims of trafficking, they remain just that: Victims. Safe harbor schemes should be extended to all victims of trafficking.
Expunging convictions related to crimes committed while a trafficking victim should also happen as a matter of course. The legislature should be working more closely with organizations providing practical and psychological support.
Human sex and labor trafficking impacts Louisiana communities. If you have been affected by human trafficking or know someone who is, you can call the national helpline at 1-888-373-7888 for advice and a local referral. The Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force also offers resources for survivors.
When you are ready to seek confidential legal advice about human sex trafficking, call Lamothe Law Firm for a free consultation. We can help you rebuild your life with dignity and get the justice you deserve.