Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, age, gender or socio-economic status. However, there are some populations that are more vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers and being caught in exploitative situations. In Canada, youth in their teens are one of the most vulnerable populations, along with temporary migrant workers and Aboriginal women & girls.
Push & Pull Factors
A person’s vulnerability to being trafficked & exploited can be described using a set of connected terms known as push and pull factors. These factors are predicted on the universal desire for people everywhere to have a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Push Factors are forces that drive people away from a particular place or situation. Such as:
- Extreme Poverty
- Lack of Education
- Inadequate Social Programs
- Gender-Based Inequality
- War & Conflict Situations
Pull Factors are forces that drive people towards a new location, in hopes of finding better opportunities and a better life. Such as:
- Free-Market Economy
- Demand for Cheap Labour, Goods & Services
- Commercialization and Commodification of Sex
Vulnerabilities & Youth
Traffickers tend to rely on “pull” factors to make themselves desirable, as they offer a “way-out” of unfavourable situations (push factors). Some of these pull factors include: economic, political and social instability, homelessness, no employment opportunities, lack of access to resources, etc.
The majority of victims are trafficked by someone they know and trust.
Youth are among one of the most vulnerable populations to becoming victims of human trafficking. This is especially the case for youth who come from harsh backgrounds that involve broken families, a past/present experience of abuse, growing up in group homes or a history of running away from home. These factors do not have to be present for a youth to fall victim of human trafficking, the list above are push factors that would make a youth more keen to find someone who can offer them a more desirable lifestyle.
In Ontario, the majority of human trafficking cases involving youth are through the means of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of young women and girls. There is little evidence on the range of young boys falling victim to human trafficking, but is likely more wide spread than what existing statistics would show.
It has been found that the average age for a youth to enter prostitution is between 13 to 16 years old. Which is important to note as age is an important factor for traffickers. This a period of transition for youth as they endure emotional and physical changes that correspond with puberty. Traffickers look for insecure young people with low self-esteem and often approach youth in public places such as: malls, bus stops/stations, sports events, schools, shelters and group homes. Social media (i.e. Instagram & Snapchat) are also used extensively to target young people and lure them into trafficking situations.