For victims of human trafficking, getting help can be a matter of life and death. They need the help from an attorney who knows how to protect California human trafficking victims and get them access to the resources that can help them escape the fear and threats they face. Whether it is through forced marriage, labor, or prostitution, these victims face legal and practical barriers to getting help. They need an advocate who will help them navigate the system and get the protections they need to break free.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It takes advantage of disadvantaged women, children, and other vulnerable individuals. Human traffickers aren’t necessarily bringing people in from overseas; some victims are recruited domestically. They do, however, control their victims’ lives through force, fraud, or coercion. Most often, the victims are put to forced labor or used for sexual exploitation.
There are approximately 40.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide. Here in California, there were 1,507 human trafficking cases in 2019, including 1,118 sex trafficking cases. Women and girls make up 75% of all human trafficking victims.
Signs of Human Trafficking
Knowing how to spot human trafficking can literally save someone’s life. A person who is a victim of human trafficking may:
- Be afraid, anxious, depressed, or submissive
- Avoid eye contact
- Not have control of their own ID or passport
- Not be free to come and go on their own schedule
- Endures high security at home or work
- Work excessively long hours
- Not control their own money
- Work through a manager, broker, or pimp
- Owe a large debt they cannot pay
- Was given false promises about the work they would do
- Fear contact with law enforcement
- Appear malnourished
- Not have access to medical care
- Show signs of physical or sexual abuse
- Not be allowed to speak for themselves
- Not be able to say where they are living or staying
- Have an inconsistent personal story or lost time
- Not know where they are
However, a victim of human trafficking may be unable to reach out for help because they are afraid of the consequences for themselves, their family, or the others in their workplace or shared environment. These people need the help of brave witnesses who will speak up when they see the signs of human trafficking.
A forced marriage is one type of human trafficking. This goes beyond the arranged marriages traditions common in many cultures. In an arranged marriage, the two families work together to make a match, but the future husband and wife each have the final say over whether or not the wedding is performed. In a forced marriage that choice is taken away. Often, a would-be spouse is afraid not to say “I do” because:
- They are already the victim of domestic assault and abuse in the relationship
- They are facing financial threats
- They are fleeing political or cultural unrest
- There is pressure because of potential family consequences
- They are afraid to lose their immigration status
- They have been coerced by their future spouse or a criminal broker or pimp
Once a forced marriage is complete, the victim-spouse may also be exposed to sexual abuse or labor or sex trafficking. The dominant spouse may demand that they turn over all their wages, endure unwanted sexual experiences, or engage in prostitution for the spouse’s benefit.
Even a voluntary marriage can turn into a forced marriage situation. A controlling spouse can coerce a domestic violence survivor into forced labor or sexual experiences through threats, or by convincing them they can’t live on their own. When that happens, a once-willing spouse becomes a trafficked person, and the victim of a crime.
Help for Victims of Human Trafficking in California
Because of its size, high immigrant population, and large international business, California has one of the highest numbers of trafficked people in the country. The act is illegal in California, and every other state, but prosecution often depends on the victims or witnesses coming forward to report what they see or experience. If you are a victim of human trafficking, or know someone who is, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline:
- Call: (888) 373-7888
- Text: 233-733 (Be Free)
Still, this is only the first step. Many of things human trafficking victims experience, especially in a forced marriage or domestic setting, are similar to the dominance and control in an abusive marriage. Breaking out of those patterns is hard and can take time. Escaping a trafficking situation can be just as difficult, and often requires help from someone who can assist with a victim’s legal and practical needs, including finding new housing, getting protection orders, arranging translators, and seeking new, legal employment. There is also a civil tort that allows human trafficking victims to get financial recovery through a civil case.
At ADZ Law, LLP, we help the victims of human trafficking in the Bay Area escape forced labor and prostitution. We stand beside domestic violence and abuse victims, providing support throughout the process. We can help you get to safety, protect yourself from future exploitation, and end any forced marriage through annulment or divorce. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help.