The Novel Coronavirus caused various direct and indirect threats to the physical health, wellbeing, mental state, and livelihood of millions of people—and the hidden impacts of the pandemic are still yet to be discovered. One of the emerging effects is the impact on human trafficking. The pandemic exacerbated the effects on vulnerable populations such as children, the homeless, single parents, and disabled individuals (*1). Increased financial stress, food insecurity, interpersonal violence, and grief over the loss of loved ones have been shown to lead to a greater instance of survival sexual or labor exploitation.
The pandemic poses a double threat to children for sexual exploitation. First, the closure of schools and sheltering-in-place mandates left children in abusive homes. Children are left with limited choices to either stay or run away and become homeless. Hospitals and urgent care clinics indicated an increased volume of children with injuries caused by abuse (*1). Second, children and adolescents have been spending an increased amount of time on social media, where traffickers are “fishing”—actively looking for potential victims. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported increased online exploitation reports from 2 million to 4.2 million from March to April 2020 (*1).
For those already were already trafficked when COVID-19 hit, their chances of survival and rescue were significantly worsened. The overburden in emergency rooms with COVID cases limited healthcare professionals’ opportunities to identify victims (*1). For most victims, the emergency room settings served as access to resources. Many rescue missions and preventative programs have been stopped nationwide due to the pandemic (*2). To appropriately respond to increased labor and sex trafficking, utilization of evidence-based and accommodation for specific needs will be needed as an aftermath of COVID.
If you suspect human trafficking, please call National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
To access local resources in California state, please refer to the Resources Center at the CCFMTC website.
(*1) Todres, J., Diaz, A. (2021). COVID-19 and human trafficking-the amplified impact on vulnerable populations. JAMA Pediatrics; 175 (2): 123-124. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3610
(*2) Little Hoover Commission (June 2020). Human trafficking: coordinating a California response file:///D:/Practicum%20and%20Grad%20Paper/APE%20Assignments%20and%20Docs/Report%20on%20HT%20from%20Little%20Hoover%20Commission-%20Dec.17,2020.pdf