Many find it difficult to believe that just miles outside of New York, one of America’s largest, most progressive and forward-thinking metropolises an issue of modern slavery lurks in the shadows. Unfortunately, it is that reluctance to see that problem that allows it to continue. Human trafficking is a crime of darkness, it thrives when it is unseen and left controlled by a small population. The East End of Long Island has, in recent years, been identified as a top 21 hotspot in the United States for human trafficking.
While it is true that victims of human trafficking do not necessarily fit a mold, and do come from all walks of life, the vast majority of victims here are Spanish-speaking, Central American women who find themselves exploited and abused in search of work, residence and stability. Whether it be forced labor under poor conditions and devoid of regulations on farms, in homes or in factories, or sex work facilitated and controlled by a trafficker, the tourist-filled towns of Eastern Long Island have offered the perfect environment for human trafficking to flourish.
Local law enforcement agencies and victim service providers have found that MS-13, a growing Central and South American gang has become a huge perpetrator of sex trafficking, often forcing victims to perform sexual acts “for” or in honor of the gang with threats or acts of violence as retaliation for “dishonor.” Like many who fall victims to human trafficking, most who are introduced to the sex trade are taken as runaways within just days of being on the street.
The need for domestic work offers ideal demand for traffickers to exploit humans and the result for the victim is often a life of unfair, undercompensated, indebtment under constant control, abuse and manipulation. Investigations have uncovered shared residences in which concerningly high numbers of men and women occupy a single space, forced to contribute monetarily for their unkempt quarters.
VIBS works daily to fight the issue of human trafficking on Long Island. With specialized staff trained in client services, education and prevention, efforts are being made to prevent this problem from continuing in our own backyards. VIBS is working in conjunction with county, local and national executives and law enforcement agencies with the shared goal to irradiate human trafficking and assist victims in restoring a sense of normalcy to their daily lives.
To help VIBS combat modern-day slavery here on Long Island, please click here.