September 22, 2012, will mark the 150th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation, President Lincoln’s decisive move to abolish slavery nationwide. President Obama echoed this decisive call by declaring January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.” In January 1, 2013, the FBI Unified Crime Reports will at last feature a “trafficking” category to allow police departments to begin quantifying the size of the problem.
Yet, while many can agree on the need to wipe out this abhorrent practice, a large proportion of the US population(1) are unaware of the dramatic rise in human trafficking within the US in recent years: trafficking is actually one of the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world, second only to the drug trade. Many people wrongly assume that human trafficking only refers to sex trafficking and is limited to developing countries on the other side of the world, yet The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American children are the victims of commercial sexual trafficking and prostitution each year. This is in addition to the estimated 14,500-17,500 foreign nationals trafficked into the US each year, according to the Washington DC-based Polaris Project.
Human trafficking refers to: Minors (under age 18) involved in commercial sex; adults age 18 or over involved in commercial sex via force, fraud, or coercion; and a category too often overlooked by most, children and adults forced to perform labor and/or services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery, via force, fraud, or coercion. This includes agricultural work or housekeeping, both of which are widespread throughout the US, often due to their seemingly legitimate appearance. My goal with the following comic was to shed a light on the nature of trafficking in the Bay Area, using material gathered from conversations with attorneys and actual case files.
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