While domestic violence and human trafficking are separate issues, their overlapping characteristics allow us to recognize societal behaviors that allow for large patterns of abuse.
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will. Though different from domestic violence, human traffickers use much of the same behaviors as abusers to exert power over victims. The goal for both an abuser and trafficker is to make a victim feel utterly reliant on them physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.
Thus, abusers and traffickers both look beyond physical abuse to create environments that trap victims completely. They might isolate and gaslight victims, convincing victims that they cannot trust their friends or themselves for escape. If a victim lacks legal documentation, abusers and traffickers alike can threaten victims with deportation, in addition to preventing victims from contacting law enforcement for fear of legal recourse. Traffickers and abusers also deny victims’ access to money, creating financial dependence, and either impregnate victims or take control over a victim’s children to manipulate victims into compliance. Additionally, many traffickers introduce drugs, alcohol, or mind-altering substances into the lives of victims, leading to addiction and further inability to escape.
With majority of human trafficking and domestic violence victims being women, the tactics and need to exert control over a victim’s body connects directly to a larger societal issue of promoting violence among men and passivity among women. The force and manipulation used by abusers and traffickers, in addition to the love and trust victims often give traffickers and abusers, feed off of media misconceptions about gendered human nature, including an emphasis on sex, money, and violence. Despite the individual recognition these two separate issues require, recognizing the overlap between human trafficking and abuse, and the overwhelming prevalence of each of these issues in today’s society, give us a better understanding of complex patterns of abuse and call us to work daily to advocate for present and future victims of all types of abuse.