As Told By Gender

While studying for my undergraduate degree, my seminar professor played a game with the class. The game was called, “Who is the trafficker?” In this game, the class was split into groups of 4, and we all had to choose who the trafficker was based on just a photograph. There was an equal number of young, old, male, and female pictures hanging on the dry-erase board awaiting the leader of the team’s choice for the group. 

My group chose someone who we thought “looked” like a predator, much like every other group leaving one photo on the board. I remember thinking, what if none of the ones we chose was the right answer, and the one that was left was? After all, extra points were on the line. As we stood up to read the envelope associated with the picture, it turned out, every single picture each group had was the right answer, they were all human traffickers. But what about the one photo that was left on the board? 

The picture was of a young, beautiful cheerleader for a local high school. When I raised my hand to ask about the photo, my professor handed me both the photo and the envelope and I read it silently first, before reading to the class. This young 17 year old girl, was also a human trafficker, used to lure other high school girls with her popularity into the lifestyle because she found there was profit in the girls. It was stated in court reports, that she found the most unpopular girls to befriend and then introduced them to her boyfriend/partner in crime. My heart was broken for those girls who were never found, brutally hurt, and traumatized because of this one little girl. A little girl who chose to get involved in this lifestyle would now spend the rest of her life in prison. 

Our organization understands that anyone can be trafficked, which also means that anyone can be survivors. Our goal is to educate and create a safe space for preparedness for the general public because it really is true–anyone and everyone is a target.

Gender inequality affects the social norms of every community, as traffickers have been known to target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination. Traffickers have used many vulnerabilities to target their victims, however, the use of good looks and charm have seemingly affected a large portion of the females who are tricked into this lifestyle.

Globally, women and girls are trafficked into forced marriages, domestic servitude, and forced criminality. By disregarding socioeconomic factors, the use of harmful gender inequalities encourage the exploitation of young women and girls by men. On the other hand, aside from the 3% of men that are recorded victims of sex trafficking, men are generally exploited by other men into forced begging, removal of organs, and labor trafficking. 

The understanding is that women/girls are powerless under the control of men, and men are powerless under the guise of freedom in some way. We have to be a voice for our youth, women, men, and other identifiable people. For more information on how you can help, get involved, or donate, check out the links below.

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Ashley Ingram