When I first designed my website, I shopped online for a photo of a tattoo for my homepage. Some of you will remember the photo a young woman’s neck bearing a universal product code (UPC) symbol. That photo remained on my website for a couple of years until I recently changed it after I discovered what the UPC meant in the realm of human trafficking. UPC symbols are a form of branding placed on people who have been enslaved by their perpetrators in order to claim ownership.
Human trafficking is likened to be a form of modern day slavery. Servitude is often in the form of prostitution, but can also be forced labor or even the removal of organs.
Whereas some victims are young runaways born in the U.S. who are sexually exploited by a pimp, other victims are brought from outside of the U.S. and forced into servitude to repay debts incurred by entry into the United States. I don’t think it should matter which side you stand on with regard to deportation/immigration. Human trafficking is inhumane. We all need to do our part to combat this horrible crime.
And, yes, it is occurring in our own communities without our knowledge. How can we recognize it? Here are the indicators from the website of Homeland Security:
Human trafficking indicators include:
- Does the victim possess identification and travel documents? If not, who has control of these documents?
- Did the victim travel to a destination country for a specific job or purpose and is victim engaged in different employment than expected?
- Is victim forced to perform sexual acts as part of employment?
- Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex?
- Does the victim owe money to an employer or does the employer hold wages?
- Did the employer instruct the victim on what to say to law enforcement or immigration officials?
- Can the victim freely leave employment or the situation?
- Are there guards at work/harboring site or video cameras to monitor and ensure no one escapes?
- Does the victim have freedom of movement? Can they freely contact family and friends? Can they socialize or attend religious services?
The number to report suspicious activity is: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE
While the photo has disappeared from my website, the research I did in investigating these tattoos has not disappeared from my thoughts. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around how such heinous treatment of people can occur in our communities. Therefore, I am going to start removing these UPC symbol tattoos free of charge in my office. If you, or someone you know, need my laser services to help free the external manifestation of this heinous crime done against them, please call me.