I live in Orlando, which is ranked third in the United States for human trafficking. I moved from Los Angeles, the number two city for human trafficking. Yet, like most people, I know amazingly little about human trafficking.
In Los Angeles, massage parlors are surprisingly common. One night one of my roommates came home looking relaxed and happy. She entered the living room and began to recount the story of her amazing massage for only 10 dollars.
“What?” another roommate said. “How long was the massage?”
“An hour,” she replied.
Then the onslaught of questions began. “What was the building like?” “Where were the masseuses from?” “Did you have to pay cash?”
Turns out, my roommate had unknowingly walked into a trafficking situation. Massage parlors are common “fronts” for prostitution or women trafficked into sexual slavery in larger cities. She didn’t mean to, but she most likely funded sexual slavery.
How do you know if that’s ever happened to you and how can you avoid it in the future?
If the Cost of Services is Cheaper Than Normal, Pay Attention
As a general rule of thumb: If the deal that you’re getting seems too good to be true, it probably is. Someone, somewhere, is paying for your bargain. Think about it: if the average hourly rate for a massage in Southern California ranges from $75 to $145, how can a massage be only $10 for an entire hour? Could there be something else going on behind the scenes? Using your common sense could save lives.
Trafficking as a term seems larger than life and intangible, so it helps me to think about it as “compelled services” or anything another person is not willingly doing. It’s forced labor. And it’s not only found in the sex industry. Forced labor comes in many forms and faces.
If You’ve Ever Bought These 3 Common Things, You’ve Probably Supported Slavery
1. Fruits and Vegetables: The production and harvesting of produce is a common area for trafficked people or forced labor. The best way around it is to know the source. Become a locavore, a person who purchases food that’s locally grown or certified “Fair Trade.” It’s more expensive, but someone needs to pay the price for justice.
2. Chocolate: Have you ever eaten cheap chocolate that wasn’t labeled fair trade? We all have. The connection between cocoa farms and slave labor is well-documented and ongoing. In “Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices,” Julie Clawson writes that there’s a market for “cheap chocolate” which results in slave labor. Slave free chocolate exists, you have to seek it out and be willing to pay more.
3. Clothes: How can you be sure your clothes aren’t made in sweatshops by women and children working 12-hour days in atrocious conditions? Most of us don’t know. Find clothing companies that have responsible policies both in the U.S. and overseas. Their factories actually enforce the “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) policies that come from headquarters. People are treated humanely, not forced or coerced. You can also shop second-hand from thrift stores or places like Plato’s Closet. That way, you’re not putting new money into funding unjust labor practices.
What are some other ways that you “consume” responsibly? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.