By: Trisha Carandang
Users who are on dating apps such as Tinder or websites like OnlyFans may be a target of human trafficking.
Since the pandemic lockdowns, mobile apps and websites that promote escorts are some of the online platforms that human traffickers have now maneuvered to target vulnerable individuals.
“That’s kind of been one of the preferred methods of getting victims,” said Professor Tionna Miller, who teaches a course about Human Trafficking at University of Washington Tacoma. “Since the pandemic lockdowns, it’s been hard to get their victims out there so they use OnlyFans and websites that promote their victims as escorts.”
Human Traffickers also prefer to use social media platforms and dating apps because they not only use it to promote their victims but also to recruit.
A data by Center for Children and Youth Justice found that the pandemic lockdowns have affected the exploitation and there have been a dramatic increase in internet-based sexual exploitation in Washington.
“It made it easier for traffickers to keep their ‘businesses’ under wraps,” said Miller. “It’s also made it harder for victims to seek help.”
In the state of Washington alone, there are 287 victims of labor and 819 sex trafficking victims but this data by the Washington State Department of Commerce is only limited as there are a lot of victims that remain unreported.
“The reason data collection is hard is because… there is still no streamlined data collection for all those non-profit organizations.” said Rebekah Covington, who is a human trafficking survivor and is now a corporate relations manager at a non-profit organization called Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking based in Seattle, Washington.
Besides being knowledgeable about Human Trafficking tactics and being aware of your surroundings as suggested by Covington, we can also learn the three-step method not only be aware of the situation but to also protect one another explained by Miller.
Similar to what the White House issued on December 2021 on combatting human trafficking, the three-step method consists of Prevention, Promote Protection and Promote Prosecution that is applicable to our communities.
Creating prevention is to enhance outreach with education that is appropriate for their age. These efforts will start in elementary school, framing it appropriately for their age so there’s an understanding what human trafficking looks like.
Secondly, promoting protection is specifically for those victims. Letting the victims build trust with law enforcements and lead them to resources that are available to them.
Last is to promote prosecution. “If they looked at prosecution for human traffickers the way that they looked at the war on crime in drugs,” said Miller, “then I think it would help slow traffickers down.”