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  • Writer's pictureJon Sullivan, Ph.D.

For All My Nerd Friends

Human trafficking involves sexual and labor exploitation. Today, trafficking is a frontpage human rights topic, but was once thought of as an immigration problem. Currently, more see the issue as a human rights violation that strikes at the heart of personal dignity. The problem is so prevalent, researchers report, every country wrestles with the problem. When survivors are rescued from an exploitative situation, the impact includes physical, psychological, and spiritual distress that affects them for the duration of their lives. Therefore, survivors require medical care, mental health services, and a restorative and integration process. Generally, the success rate of reintegration is not impressive. Whether an individual is coerced by a trafficker or enters prostitution because of their limited choices, the damage is long lasting. I argue for more prevention services and an exploration of best practices. Thailand is known for young individuals providing sexual services for a price. Therefore, reaching the children before they become “of age” is mandatory to curb the statistics related to human trafficking. Additionally, pre-adolescent victimization is related to family financial necessity. Services aimed at family systems in Thailand is key to addressing the present vulnerabilities. However, best practices of prevention is not clear, but seems to be multifaceted.

Poverty and illiteracy remain at the forefront driving the exploitation of many adolescents. Past observation has demonstrated limited financial resources of parents hinder children from attending school. As the children reach adolescents, many find themselves unable to read the Thai language and possess no marketable skills other than their sexuality. The cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and exploitation often continues to the next generation. Focusing on family systems is key to exploring solutions to modern day slavery.

Researchers once announced the scope of human trafficking as steadily progressing into a worldwide crisis. However, little credible research exists to substantiate those claims. Global numbers are difficult to obtain due to the shadowy work of trafficking. The statistics that do exist are often an “educated guess” based on interviews and arrest records. These interviews and arrest record numbers are compared against the current population to arrive at a number. An overall “educated guess” does little to arm governments and NGOs in the fight to alleviate suffering of exploited individuals. Global numbers are also not practical as trafficking is a complex phenomenon and manifests differently in regional contexts. Therefore, micro-level research gives more focused data to address the problem in a particular context rather than macro-level “guess work”.

I advocate for more focused research that centers on communities, towns, counties, states, provinces, and in some contexts, nations. A regional approach may produce more reliable numbers that are helpful to lawmakers, law enforcement, and NGO leaders. Regional statistics provide stakeholders with more accurate data to better address the localized trafficking problem.

Through a micro-level approach, I focus on Pattaya, Thailand. The city of Pattaya, Thailand is regarded as the, “sex trafficking capital of the world for minors”. Although, credible numbers are not available, the GRACE organization has experience with identifying victims of trafficking and exploitation. Those numbers are not at the rate reported globally, but nonetheless alarming. Therefore, research focused on minors in the city may produce more credible and usable data. This data is mandatory if there is hope in reducing exploitation.

By the way, the references are available upon request.

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