Intriguing look at modern human trafficking victims, their abusers and customers.
Hidden in Plain Sight addresses the many ways to exploit humans to make money. It includes those forced into prostitution, paid little for domestic work or to work on produce and cocoa farms, and coerced into solicitation crews.
Sexual victims are typically not kidnapped but instead coerced by the trafficker (aka pimp) to join his stable. The pimp provides for basic human needs for the victim. If the victim is poor, the pimp provides food, shelter and safety. If the victim is middle class, he provides love and emotional support. Both stop if the victim balks at the idea of prostituting herself. Then the violence and possibly threats to family members begin. There is little risk to the pimp as the book cites statistics of less than 0.01% of traffickers are caught. Even those caught usually plead their crimes down to misdemeanors with little jail time. The victims are typically criminalized and jailed because it is difficult for police to differentiate between voluntary and forced prostitution especially if the victim doesn’t go to the police as soon as possible.
Domestic and agricultural workers are typically brought into the United States under a work visa but sometimes smuggled into the country from third-world countries. They are assessed both transportation and paperwork fees in the thousands of dollars. Their passports, visas and other paperwork are held by the trafficker. The workers are paid less than agreed upon before deciding to leave their home country partly to pay off the cost of their arrival but also because they have little recourse to argue the point. Many domestic workers are paid nothing to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All have little to no chance to escape their indentured servitude.
Solicitation crews victimize young people typically 18-24 years of age. The crews sell the trafficker’s products door-to-door, often for more than 12 hours a day. Not meeting their daily quota results in beatings. The crews are charged for their appalling room and board. The trafficker moves the crew every two weeks from state-to-state to remove the victims’ social network that may allow them to escape.
The author, a PHD in criminology with an emphasis in human trafficking, researched websites where human traffickers meet and describe their exploits. There are many fascinating quotes from pimps, other traffickers, victims, and customers. There is even an appendix that defines the terms they use. It is amazing how much hurt can be done in the name of money or sexual pleasure.
Hidden in Plain Sight is an enlightening read that will open most reader’s eyes to what is just under the surface of their middle class life. As the writer describes, most people have either seen human trafficking victims without even realizing it or used the product of their labor. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Praeger, and netgalley for an advanced review copy.