Saturday, December 08, 2007

Follow-up to a comment

A comment was posted by anonymous to my story on the Greek sex trafficking ring that was busted with the following article:

"Sex Trafficking Worker May Be Back With Traffickers"

The article discusses a trafficking victim from China who was brought to the UK under the guise of paying off a debt she owed on a loan to cover her parent's medical expenses. Essentially, she was forced to work without pay, as the debt and interest rate became insurmountable. After being rescued by the police, and the story made headlines in the local area, the victim became fearful for her family's life in China and fled. The police are unsure where she is.

Following the interviews the investigators placed her into safe accommodation. She would inevitably have had to go through a number of immigration checks and more lengthy interviews before eventually being flown home.

Det Con Jones believes the possible delay made Shirley take drastic action.

She said: "She knew she still had the debt to pay off. She knew the raid had been disclosed in the local papers and feared the man who collected the money would read it. She was fearful word would get back to Hong Kong and feared what would happen to her parents."To her, that threat was very real. She was desperate."

"While the victim wasn't shackled or kept in chains she told us her passport was taken from her and she was threatened not to leave. She was made fully aware that they knew exactly where her elderly parents lived. She told us: 'you cannot trust the Chinese police to help. They are not like you'."

"Her number one priority was her parents. There was no other family to care for them, only her. She would rather go back to Hong Kong and face the guy there, face that punishment than it be imposed on her parents."

It is thought Shirley fled the safe accommodation just hours later and disappeared

Investigators are unable to say where she is now, or whether she made it back to her parents.There is even a concern she may have been recaptured by the traffickers. Reports have found trafficked women who escape the clutches of their pimps are often tracked down, often at ports or airports, and threatened back into the trade.

I thought the headline was pretty misleading. When I saw it at first, I thought the article was accusatory that after the help she received, she turned around and went right back to the trade. This story, to me, highlights two important points.

1.) The treatment of victims is a complicated process and just because a victim is out of the immediate situation does not mean they feel safe nor are they completely out of the grasps of their traffickers. Just because the trafficker was caught in the country of destination does not mean those in the country of origin will not try to silence their victims or their families.

2.) The responsibility of the media to be careful about how they report trafficking cases. Due to the multiple layers of running a trafficking ring, breaking up one part of it does not ensure the rest of the organization will not threaten the victim. In Ukraine, some of the organizations I work with even do training for the media on how to provide victim-sensitive reporting on human trafficking. There were many problems with reports that blamed the victim, gave specific names, etc. All of which either re-traumatized the victim or put him/her back in harms way.

Now with all that said, there are cases where victims end up returning to their traffickers and pimps. Either they feel to threatened to continue to talk to the police, or their trafficker has made direct threats to his or her family, or the abuse they suffered puts them in a position that they feel compelled to return to their abuser. It could be they fear returning to their own country and community, either due to the humiliation they will suffer or knowing the economic situation hasn't changed. The situations all need to be considered when providing aid to a victim in order to build the most effective services possible. It also needs to be considered by the governments who want to stop this problem as far as creating effective criminal code and social services.


  1. Anonymous12:24 AM

    Great commentary. You are absolutely correct in your points.

    I posted the link to your site because I thought you may be interested in it.

  2. Yes, thank you very much. It is interesting, and the deeper I get into my research, the more critical I have become of the way in which the problem is reported. Perhaps a little too much so :-)

    I want to see this issue gain enough coverage for people to understand the problem, but not in a way that is derogatory to victims or misleading in what is said and not said.

    Thank you for your contribution!