Woman appearing to be young and of Asian descent sitting on a bench outside of a coffee shop.

Human Trafficking Affects Communities of Color Differently? Yes, It Does!

How can that be? Interested members of the community learned the answer to that question at our recent Let’s Talk webinar entitled Understanding the Link Between Race and Human Trafficking, which occurred on June 17, 2021. This insightful program featured a panel of three survivor leaders in the field of human trafficking prevention who each brought their different perspectives to this question.

What our esteemed guests had to say

Tina Frundt, founder and executive director of DC-based Courtney’s House

Tina talked about the effect human trafficking has on people who are African-American. One notable insight from Frundt: while most people think of girls as victims of sex trafficking, we should remember that boys are trafficked too. Unfortunately, shame and fear often keep boys and men from seeking help. Communities can rise above this stigma by creating safer spaces for boys and men to get help and by having hard, honest conversations among the community about male experiences.

Frundt also reminded us that while supportive families can help give our children the confidence and skills to avoid being trafficked, many survivors were victimized by family members. Communities need to provide safe places and resources for people to go that don’t rely on the family unit.

Sabrina Lopez, founder and CEO of Florida-based Girl, Speak Up!

Sabrina noted that Hispanic/Latin communities have different barriers. For example, English isn’t the first language in many Hispanic/Latin households. Fear of deportation—of yourself or a loved one—can keep victims from going to authorities. Lopez also noted that Hispanic/Latin girls are often under a lot of pressure to avoid all sexual relations until marriage, and that this pressure can keep girls from getting help if they have been raped or abused.

Shandra Woworuntu, CEO of New York-based Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program

Shandra addressed trafficking among the Asian population. She talked about her experiences during her victimization and how the cultural expectations of the submissiveness of Asian women make it difficult for them to defend themselves against the threat of human trafficking. Woworuntu noted that Asian Americans are at high risk of being trafficked for sex or for labor, and they all need help to break free of their modern-day slavery. She also reminded us that the Asian American-Pacific Islander population is extraordinarily diverse—her Asian-American community comprises people from nearly 50 different countries—and we need to respect their differences as we work with them. Woworuntu gave us words of optimism and strength: we can and will work together in our communities to overcome the scourge of trafficking.

What do these different perspectives teach us?

All three leaders did an outstanding job shining a light on how people from different cultures are impacted differently by the heinous crime of human trafficking. Their message was incredibly helpful to not only the webinar attendees that night, but also all of us here at ATI. Tina, Sabrina, and Shandra’s message drove home several important points. First, we need to be mindful of the cultural differences in our communities and tailor our prevention programs accordingly. Second, people have different personal circumstances that add to their vulnerability and make it challenging to get help. Most importantly, the best way we can be an ally for survivors is to be watchful of trafficking in our neighborhood, be welcoming and supportive of survivors, and be intentional to let survivors lead the way in telling us how to eradicate trafficking.

Why Let’s Talk?

Let’s Talk is ATI’s quarterly webinar series where we partner with experts in the field to present an in-depth analysis and discussion on varied topics related to human trafficking. The series offers us a new and exciting avenue to engage with our communities and to stop human trafficking before it starts through education and outreach.

Our premier Let’s Talk aired in March and presented information on why trafficking incidents increased during the COVID shutdown. The recording is available for the public to watch on our YouTube channel. In September, Let’s Talk will feature issues related to human trafficking and going back to school. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media so you don’t miss the announcements about that and other future Let’s Talk events!

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