Human trafficking, the selling of sex acts for profit, is, in fact, largely supported by actions taken during work hours. To be clear, the majority of those sex acts are not happening in the workplace, but the people who order sex workers often do so while at work.
It’s typically done in the afternoon so that the sex act may be completed after work hours on the way home. That’s according to trafficking advocate and expert Kristin Keen, CEO and President of the nonprofit Rethreaded, which is dedicated to thwarting human trafficking.
Sex Trafficking Is a Pervasive and Hidden Business Operation
Keen made it clear that human trafficking, which is distinct from modern slavery, known as labor trafficking, is largely not like what you see in movies. “Only 5% of all human trafficking cases are abduction. The other 95% is the use of fraud, force, or coercion to perform a sex act for profit,” she says.
This distinction is important because the majority of sex trafficking happens behind closed doors and outside the public’s view. This has the effect of making it seem less widespread than it really is.
Keen also notes that “human trafficking is a business based on basic business principles of supply and demand. If there was no demand for it, traffickers would have nothing to sell.” That business is worth an annual $150 billion worldwide.
These basic facts lie at the heart of what Keen is trying to accomplish: eliminating the demand for human trafficking in every way possible. And employers can play a critical role in assisting that effort.
Company Policies Can Help
Naturally, employees should not be allowed to order sex acts while at work. “You’re wasting company time, your putting your company’s reputation at risk, and you’re contributing to human trafficking,” says Keen about workers who participate in these activities. Healthy and successful company cultures must revolve around a higher set of standards. Yet, very few organizations overtly ban the activity in their employee handbooks.
Keen believes that the least organizations can do is overtly ban ordering sex work while at work “with a zero-tolerance policy. You can make a stand. What a lot of companies have done is change their policies to say that if you get caught, you’re fired. You’re going to lose your job if you get caught buying sex.”
Such a policy sends a clear message that employers know about the problem and are standing up for what is right. It also has the advantage of being easy to implement.
Consider Bringing in Speakers
Rethreaded helps get women out of sex work and hires them to work at the organization. Some of those workers help make corporate gifts—when organizations buy tote bags from a nonprofit like Rethreaded, it directly supports women who have been rescued from sex work. Organizations that want to help might consider bringing in a speaker like those who work for Rethreaded.
Some of the organization’s survivors give talks to companies about the importance of battling human trafficking. These talks can help create awareness of the issue and hopefully prevent it from happening.
The impact of listening to survivors can be very powerful. Keen says, “It changes everything.” It can help take a situation that is largely hidden and bring it into the open, where we can all condemn it together.
Consider Donating Time or Resources
If your organization is looking to expand its corporate social responsibility efforts, giving to a group like Rethreaded might be an option. Such organizations fight important battles and can help employees who donate their time or money to those efforts feel like they are making a real difference. There is much that can be done even now, when so many of us are stuck at home.
I realize this is a heavy topic and one that can be very uncomfortable to confront. Additionally, HR personnel may not naturally have the most direct role in helping thwart human trafficking, but they can certainly take on such a role. If you want to learn more about how we can all help, consider watching Keen’s TEDx talk on ending human trafficking.