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COVID-19 and Human Trafficking. What is Happening Right Now?

Photo by cheng feng on Unsplash

The global COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated incredible societal changes that few people were anticipating. If you are self-isolating and figuring out how to work from home while homeschooling your children or you have just been laid off, we sympathize. Rahab's Daughters is dealing with unexpected challenges, too.

Thanks to COVID-19 our phones are ringing double time with women either trying to escape trafficking or because they are abandoned by their traffickers. Imagine being forced to provide sexual favors during a global pandemic with no choice to social distance. This is the plight of human trafficking victims around the world and in your neighborhood. We have performed 32 rescues in just the past two weeks!

We are also experiencing an uptick in calls from refugee communities in Florida, Minnesota and Illinois. Younger at risk victims are calling their mentors in unprecedented numbers with stories of attempted online grooming. (Thank goodness they paid attention in our human trafficking prevention classes!) According to the FBI, the sudden closure of schools is increasing the risk of child exploitations and recruitment.

COVID-19 has created a strange polarity in the human trafficking market. Porn viewing is on the rise as more people shelter in place in their homes. Our friends at Exodus Cry are doing a great job of exposing that industry. Since the Governor's order to shelter in place for Illinois on March 21, the demand for live or in person sex trafficking has gone down significantly, which has led to victims being abandoned by their controllers. Unfortunately, the change in demand is pushing trafficking trade further underground as non-essential businesses, like strip clubs, sex clubs and massage places close, creating added danger for sex workers.

Traffickers are forcing women to produce porn to meet the increased demand. Several of the young women we have rescued over the last few days have been forced to perform sexual acts in front of a camera in order to stay alive.

Globally, unemployment hit yet another all time high this month, with 3.3 million claims in the U.S. alone. We can only imagine that more financial constraints will drive businesses to have to contend with unexpected choices and hardships. These difficult economic times drive people to make decisions they would not ordinarily make, placing workers at risk of labour exploitation. Labor exploitation takes many forms, it can look like making workers redundant and pushing them into tough economic spots where they will settle for less pay or make desperate choices just to put food on the table. It can also look like forcing the employees left to take on extra work, or the use of temp workers, who maybe undocumented, to fill staffing holes at below market value pay. Farmers are also struggling to find help forcing them to allow children as young as 12 to work in the fields in often dangerous conditions. Sadly, labor trafficking is likely to rise as H2-a visas are held up due to government office closures.

Our new chapters around the country are experiencing a similar uptick in rescue requests. We have a waiting list for both beds and essential items. Special thanks to the Village Church of Bartlett & AME churches who did a fast collection of critical supplies like underwear, bras, antiperspirant, soap, feminine supplies towels, socks, etc. We never have enough new sets of underwear, bras, socks, towels, sheets and feminine supplies and of course we always need toilet paper!!

You can help by donating so that we can order the needed supplies. Providing funds for us to order what we need in the moment will allow us to consider our communities by only getting what is needed, so we do not end up hoarding excess supplies. Alternatively, if you find yourself with extra time on your hands we would love to train you as a volunteer and provide you actions you can take from the privacy of your own home to help us in this fight. Extreme financial uncertainty can drive people to make unthinkable choices, you can be a part of the lifeline to stop the cycles of abuse in women & children during these stressful times and prevent human trafficking.

To end on a positive note, China is banning wildlife trafficking said to be the cause of coronavirus, reminding us that silver linings do exist.

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