After extensive (seven years) research on all forms of human trafficking across the globe, Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight was published by Columbia Unversity Press in 2013. This was my second book but it quickly became closest to my heart because its origins began at home, in New Orleans.
The story of my research began in New Orleans, not long after Hurricane Katrina. Just like any place in any country that experiences a natural disaster, the infrastructure was disrupted, the population was in flux and law enforcement personnel were overextended. In order to rebuild the city, there was a sudden demand for low-wage labor, which created an ideal scenario for labor exploitation and human trafficking. This resulted in contractors who brought in and exploited workers unnoticed.
This is actually where the latter part of the book title (Hidden in Plain Sight) came from: the workers were exploited out in the open, but they were hidden in plain sight because no one was paying attention to the exploitation. I first began to research human trafficking cases in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region and after seeing the common patterns I added the entire U.S. and 23 other nations.
I discovered that no matter what nation I explored or what form of trafficking took place, human trafficking and the way it is performed is shockingly similar. False jobs, exorbitant fees for recruitment, visas, travel, housing, food and even the use of on-the-job tools are all ways to put the victim in a position of dependence and eventual servitude. Additional fees—or fines—are tacked on for “poor behavior” or not meeting certain work quotas. This formula is incredibly successful—as the victims’ debt rises exponentially, the victims end up owing more than they earn.
Despite the similarities between nations, there are also unique differences. We examine specific cultural, economic, environmental and geopolitical factors that contribute to each nation’s trafficking issues. We also highlight common phenomena that governments and international anti-traffickers should consider in their fight against this illicit trade.
My hope in writing the book is to attract a broad audience. It is important that society doesn’t compartmentalize human trafficking as only relevant to certain domains and industries. It is essential that human trafficking is understood by those in a variety of industries: Store owners, grade school educators, those in the medical community and green builders. The list goes on and on. Awareness is the key to positive change and these books not only help spread awareness to a large and varied audience that can spark discussion, but also training and a demand for changes within a multitude of industries.
Awareness is the key to positive change and my hope is that this book and Conversation With My Daughter About Human Trafficking not only help spread awareness to a large and varied audience that can spark discussion, but also training and a demand for changes within a multitude of industries.
— Stephanie Hepburn