If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate. Support is provided in more than 200 languages. Professionals are there to listen and connect you with the help you need to stay safe.
Disabilities and Recruitment
Before you read further, be advised that we advocate for the rights of people with all forms of disabilities. Our broad definition of disability contains both visible and invisible disabilities; this includes physical, psychological, and emotional disabilities.
Why human traffickers target individuals with disabilities?
Understanding the Dynamics of Trafficking Concerning Individuals with Disabilities
Human trafficking is, the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for the purpose of commercial sex acts or labor servitude. Human trafficking is about making a high profit with the lowest possible risk to get caught by law enforcement. Thus, traffickers target vulnerable community members to lower their risk of getting caught by authorities; the more vulnerable an individual is, unfortunately that person is a better target for human traffickers.
Historically, the disability community has been targeted by traffickers for several reasons including, but not limited to:
Financial Access: Traffickers may target people with disabilities to access their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Dependence: Individuals with disabilities may require a caregiver to meet their basic needs and that causes a learned response to comply with the caregivers’ wishes due to their dependence on them. This situation makes them vulnerable by normalizing an unequal power dynamic in their relationships, which could carry over into their relationship with a trafficker or abuser. Additionally, the caregiver can take advantage of this dependency and force individuals with disabilities into labor servitude or commercial sex acts.
Communication Difficulties: Communication and/or impediment speech may affect some individuals’ ability to get the help they need and report an abusive situation. It makes this population more vulnerable, especially if they depend on their trafficker for interpretation.
Desensitized to Touch: The isolation and lack of sex education, along with communication difficulties, make any consent to a sexual relationship more complicated among individuals with disabilities. It could mean they may not understand the concept of consent. As a result, they may be desensitized to touch.
Isolation: Disability can be an isolating experience that can affect individuals with disabilities at some stage of their lives. This isolation and loneliness that causes individuals with disabilities to desire relationships or friendship make them more vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers.
Social Discrimination: The social discrimination and prejudice that individuals with disabilities often face in our society is another factor that makes them more vulnerable to trafficking situations. People with disabilities may be less likely to be taken seriously when they make a report of sexual assault or abuse. They may also face challenges in accessing services to make a report in the first place.
For more information on human trafficking involving individuals with disabilities, please review the following resources:
Polaris Project (Individuals with Disabilities May Face Increased Risk of Human Trafficking)
The National Human Trafficking & Disabilities Working Group (A multi-organizational effort managed by the International Organization of Adolescents)
Trafficking of Persons with Disabilities in the United States Factsheet (Human Trafficking Legal Center).
How to Identify and Communicate with Human Trafficking Victims with an Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability Webinar (Office for Victims of Crime and Technical Assistance Center).
Human Trafficking and Health Care Providers: Lessons Learned from Federal Criminal Indictments and Civil Cases (HEAL Trafficking and Human Trafficking Legal Center).
Human Trafficking of People with Disabilities Online Resources (Disability Justice).
Victims with Physical, Cognitive, or Emotional Disabilities (Office for Victims of Crime and Technical Assistance Center).
Need help? United States:
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