By Ashley Keller
Old Slavery v. Modern Day Slavery Part II
It is commendable that human trafficking is getting more and more attention and global awareness is on the rise. But, the small amount of information regarding this marginalized group is simply not enough, especially when there are statistics that report there are approximately 340 million women with disabilities (Amon, 2010)!
Even more stunning, not only is there a severe lack of information regarding human trafficking and disabilities worldwide, but there are entire United Nations and United States government reports, among others, that include hundreds of pages of statistics and personal accounts with no mention of this group of individuals. My nickname for them has become the forgotten people. That is precisely what they are, forgotten, omitted, passed over, left out.
It is incredible that with all the disability acts, services and initiatives, in the United States and around the world, that they have been so easily forgotten! The Bureau of Justice Statistics completed a National Crime Victimization Survey in 2007. This survey included nonfatal violent and property crimes against individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities were victims of approximately “47,000 rapes, 79,000 robberies, 114,000 aggravated assaults, and 476,000 simple assaults”. It was also found that disabled persons had a “1.5 times higher rate for persons without disabilities” to be involved in a nonfatal violent incident. Not surprisingly, their survey also found that “females with a disability had a higher victimization rate than males with a disability”.
On the other hand, among typical individuals, males had a higher victimization rate than females. In Joseph Amon’s article entitled Invisible Women he states that “at least 10 percent of the world’s population is believed to live with a disability…half - 340 million - are women”. Sadly the voices of these women are not heard because they do not fit neatly into one group. They are women, but they are disabled, so they are not included in any women’s movements and even though they are disabled they are not necessarily included in any disability movements because they are women.
As previously discussed, the four major vulnerabilities of trafficking are poverty, ignorance, minority and being a female. According to Stop Violence Against Women, women make up 75% of the disabled population. This means that 75% of the disabled population has at least three out of the four major red flags that increase vulnerability to human trafficking. They are disabled which makes them a minority and often creates a lack of knowledge, and on top of that they are women. Because of the incorrect belief that sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS, many women and children in this category are victimized.
This is due to another false belief that because these women are disabled, they are also virgins (stopvaw, 2009). UNICEF reports, that virtually 100% of disabled females in India are beaten, 25% are raped and 6% are forcibly sterilized. In South Africa battered women services are not accessible.
Children suffer a high rate of victimization in this population as well due to the fact that “impairments often make children appear as ‘easy victims’”. This is not only because they may have difficulty in defending themselves or in reporting the abuse, but also because their accounts are often dismissed (UNICEF, 2008). Children in general, and children with disabilities in particular, are thought to have unreliable testimonies of situations that occur, including those involving exploitation and abuse.
USAID reports on some facts that they received from UNICEF, and it has been reported that in Thailand prostitution houses seek deaf girls. Their thought process behind this is that not many people know sign language so these girls will not be able to communicate effectively in order to get help. This specific disability serves to isolate these individuals even more than a typically developing individual trafficked into an unknown country.
They also report that the rate of child prostitutes with mild developmental disabilities is six times greater than what is expected within the general population. This marginalized group is underrepresented and does not have access to the tools they need to become empowered. Unfortunately, even organizations that make attempts to help fall short of being accessible to this population worldwide.
Continued Tuesday September 14th, 2010.
Ashley received her B.A. in Psychology from Immaculata University this past semester. She has worked with individuals with autism for about 10 years and is currently working as an ABA therapist doing Early Intense Behavioral Intervention. This coming semester she will be student teaching to receive her Elementary/Special Education teaching certifications. She also plans to pursue graduate level programs in order to continue her work and understanding of individuals with autism.