By Ashden Brooke Robinson; B.S. majoring in Criminal Justice, University of Missouri Saint Louis (UMSL); Gateway Human Trafficking Intern.
How would it feel as an Indigenous woman knowing you are at a higher risk for getting human trafficked or knowing as a mother that your child is at higher risk to be targeted by traffickers?
Many people often do not realize how many indigenous women, girls, and children are human trafficked. “Thousands of human trafficking victims targeted and exploited in the US every year, of whom only 10% are ever identified. In New Mexico, a mere 160 cases have been opened since 2016. But, while Native Americans make up about 11% of the state’s population, they account for nearly a quarter of trafficking victims, according to data compiled from service organizations.” (2019)
160 people are missing in New Mexico; meaning 160 families are trying to find a loved one. In most missing person cases regarding Indigenous people, the reporting is very minimal. It has been systematically proven that missing indigenous women and girls are not given the same attention from law enforcement or media compared to other races. According to the Justice Department, Native American females are 10 times more likely to be murdered. 80% of Indigenous females will experience some type of violence in their lifetime. In 2016 nearly 6,000 reports were made regarding missing Indigenous women and girls and only 116 of those cases have been reported in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Unfortunately, this issue indicates there is an epidemic of missing Indigenous women and girls in the U.S.
“A 16-month investigation by Searchlight New Mexico has found that when it comes to human trafficking, indigenous women and girls are the least recognized and least protected population in a state that struggles to address the problem.” (2019) These women and girls are lured, threatened, coerced and are made to trade sex for money, drugs, and favors.
We all need to learn the signs of human trafficking, so we can help a potential victim. Do you know the signs and what to look for if someone is being trafficked? Trafficking victims often show some signs such as appearing anxious, depressed, mute and having little sense of time. They are frequently reported missing, appearing malnourished and sometimes bruises on their bodies can be found.
The people that try to lure women and girls into human trafficking may act as if they know them and make remarks like “I remember you from high school, do you remember me”? The people may appear charming and nice and convince them to send pictures, videos, or hangout. Then they threaten to harm them or their family if they tell anyone about what has happened. Human trafficking is the exploitation of individuals through threat or use of force, coercion and/or fraud for the purpose of commercial sex acts or labor servitude. It is a growing crime that is estimated to generate $99 billion a year globally, and in the US, people of color – mostly African American and indigenous women – are victimized at the highest rates.” (2019)
If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation:
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. Or, text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply. Chat the National Human Trafficking Hotline via www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat
Guardian News and Media. (2019, December 18). ‘nobody saw me’: Why are so many Native American women and girls trafficked? The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/18/native-american-women-trafficked-searchlight-new-mexico