When we talk about things like human trafficking it’s easy to say “why don’t they just run away”. In many ways this seems like an easy solution to the problem. If you are in a bad situation or your life is at risk, the simplest conclusion that’s easy to make, is run away. Most everyone has seen Taken, or Silence of the Lambs, maybe some episodes of criminal minds or Law and Order: SVU, in these cases people always are escaping or being rescued in the nick of time. So why don’t people do it in real life?
When someone is trafficked, one of the problems is they usually know their trafficker. Sometimes it will be someone they are just familiar with and other times it’s someone who they really trust if not care for. As easy as it is to say that they should just leave, it’s really not that simply. Once someone realizes the situation they are in its difficult to come to terms with what is happening.
Sophie Hayes shared her story about being trafficked. She explains that she had been dating this guy for years. They talked every day and when he invited her to Italy to visit, she never expected what happened. He forced her into prostitution. The man that she loved and trusted just deceived her. She found out that he was a criminal, a trafficker or guns, drugs, and women, and as he informed her on what he expected her to do she froze.
Not only does she discuss what happened to her, she explains why she didn’t run, why she couldn’t run. Sophie explained that he threatened her. He told her that he had people everywhere and that if she disobeyed she was a dead woman. He tormented her by taking her to a lake saying that this is where her dead body would be if she acted out. But she wouldn’t be the only one to suffer, her family and friends would also. And in this she knew there was truth. Although she was not physically chained, she was mentally and emotionally chained. She began to fear everyone and trust no one. She couldn’t even go to police of the government because many of the men who paid for her sex were cops, military men, judges, and doctors.
Many people who are trafficked experience similar control. She says “To the outside world this is a difficult concept to understand, but with extreme fear comes complete debilitation. Fear of the mind is often the hardest thing to rationalize with.” And according to Austin Texas Gov. “in addition to the physical violence and threats of violence against themselves, victims also face the threat of having their family members harmed or murdered by the traffickers if they try to run away or tell anyone about their situation. This creates extreme fear and psychological bondage that keeps them enslaved.”
As you can see escaping isn’t simple. Most victims face extreme psychological barriers, brutal abuse, manipulation, brainwashing, and distrust of the law. Escaping does not only risk their life, but the lives of their loved ones and not to mention further retaliation from their trafficker. Although running away seems to be a simple solution, in reality it is nearly impossible, and when actually successful it is very dangerous and comes with many repercussions.
I highly encourage you to at least read the blog written by Sophie Hayes (a pseudonym) if nothing else. She shares a powerful story that sheds light on the reality of human trafficking. In addition to her story, I also have two other sources. They are brief but very useful and I recommend you to read over them as well if you can find the time!