What exactly is Domestic Violence?
You’ve probably been educated on what domestic violence is and how much damage it can do to an individual, family and relationships as a whole. However, you probably haven’t thought much on the relationship between domestic violence and human trafficking. To refresh your knowledge on domestic violence, let’s first define it. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, in an intimate relationship it can be a pattern of negative behaviors exhibited by one partner over another partner to keep them in control. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: using coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, asserting male dominance, economic abuse, minimizing and blaming, and finally using children against their partners. Domestic violence can occur within any religious group, socioeconomic class, race/ethnicity, and gender.
The effect of Domestic Violence on the family
It is no secret that children are the product of their environment. If you have children then you know this all too well. When placed in an environment with healthy relationships, a loving home, and all needs met, they usually continue those habits and lead successful lives. Unfortunately the same sometimes applies for the opposite, and children that are exposed to domestic violence, other forms of abuse, and neglect continue this cycle of violence. Statistics have shown that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence within the U.S. annually. When domestic violence is involved between a mother and father, the aggressor may also maintain control of other members of the family with fear and violence. These children view abuse as ways of “communication” and think it is normal. They may even copy the same patterns in their own interpersonal relationships.
Escaping Domestic Violence
The first way domestic violence and human trafficking are connected is through escape. Children may grow tired of the violence happening in their homes and take matters into their own hands. It is not unusual for these pre-teens and teenagers to run away, especially if they believe they are offered a better chance at life. In fact, one study found that among children living on the street, 83% had been exposed to at least on serious violent event and nearly 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their own families. Traffickers will use a child’s home environment as leverage and promise them love, safety, money, and freedoms. This, of course, is a façade and these children soon realize the violence against them is only continuing.
Another way a child can be trafficked is by a family member they know and trust. Familial trafficking is when an adult relative abuses the already existing power dynamics and coerce children into commercial sex, labor or servitude. Children in homes that experience domestic violence are more at risk for familial trafficking. According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, in 41% of known child trafficking cases the recruiter was a family member. This adult may use psychological, physical, or sexual abuse (or a combination of the three) to keep the child quiet. The same study found that in these cases where family members played a role, 72% of trafficked children were female.
Human trafficking comes in many shapes and forms and it may not always be a kidnapping situation where the trafficker is a stranger. Familial trafficking makes up almost half of the child trafficking statistics. On the other hand, children that have been exposed to domestic violence and other forms of abuse may turn to the trafficking industry for escape. However they found their way into the trafficking industry, it never makes it okay and escape is never easy. Education is key in helping children that have been trafficked. Children who have experienced these traumas may be distrustful. Approaching without judgment and only love will help create a connection with these victims to guide them to proper resources.