As we prepare to discuss the psychology of captivity at the ICISF World Congress in May, I have been feverishly reading articles, watching documentaries, reading interviews, and conducting interviews. Human trafficking in Northern Virginia, slave markets in Mauritania, organ harvesting in Egypt, slave trading in Libya, and enough articles to fill volumes of books without end. The reality is that human captivity in all forms is a modern day scourge, and the exploitation of human beings for profit is one of the largest industries on the planet. It is easy for people in the western world to dismiss this reality as they live their everyday lives without fear or worry. If it doesn’t affect your world it is easy to not worry about it. The perpetrators of these crimes are able to hide in plain sight because of the facade of false security we put around our communities. The sad and most salient message we hear from our friends in law enforcement is that they just don’t have the resources to follow up on every report they receive, nor to prosecute every crime they uncover. In some cases, the requirements to prosecute these crimes are far greater than the resources available, and the cases are often dropped.
One of the things I did in my post military life was to train in search and rescue, and community emergency response. One of the advanced courses required by every agency in the United States for emergency management leadership positions is called Incident Command System 400 (ICS 400) which covers incidents like Hurricane Katrina or 9/11/01. ICS 400 spends a lot of time on managing resources, mobilizing, demobilizing, tracking, and requesting new resources to help in the middle of multiple expanding incidents. The exercises in ICS 400 are designed to tax a student’s leadership skills, and help them to understand that there is no panacea to disaster response. The sad reality that many students learn is that no leader has the ability to manage resources beyond their span of control. The other sad reality in disaster management is that there are often a lot of resources, but most often the one thing lacking is the right resource to handle the most critical problems. These lessons are absolutely true in human trafficking, and modern day slavery.
One of the other things you learn in search and rescue is the dangers of self-deploying to a disaster response. Your team may be the resource that is needed to handle the specific problem that needs to be solved, yet if you self-deploy you are generally seen as a cowboy and sent home. If you are the leader of such a team, you must get the word out ahead of disasters about your capabilities, find ways to work with other response agencies, and ensure that you have the funding to deploy when called. There are often more forces trying to stop your team’s success than there are trying to help your team be prepared to solve the critical problem of the next disaster. This is also very true in the anti-human captivity realm. Everyone around us agrees that human-captivity is a problem, but unless you have backing and support from the right team, you face the same dilemmas of not being able to deploy your team, that you face in search and rescue and disaster relief. The problem is that this is a disaster of epic proportions and there are not enough resources in the effort to even make a dent in the problem.
If we were to look at the human trafficking problem in Northern Virginia as a microcosm of the current global problem, I think most people would be shocked. The problem surrounds us, and is in every high school and middle school in Fairfax County. In many cases, teenagers live seemingly normal lives, and unbeknownst to their parents, are pimped and sold for sex right under their parents noses. Women are duped and recruited into the trafficking world, and others are forced into domestic servitude. There is little qualitative, and quantitative data available online to support these claims and it takes hours of research and to find the right person to talk to, just to break the surface. If we were to place this activity on a heat map it would be shocking to most parents, and if we were to do a social network analysis of each case it would be more shocking to see just how close it is to your family. I would argue that if we did this analysis on a global scale, we would be even more shocked of just how far and how close modern day slavery is to each and every one of us. Unfortunately for us, this kind of research is hard to resource and fund, and is not the hottest ticket item, and is not selling something hip or cool. Just as in search and rescue and disaster relief, the tools that are needed in the next disaster are kept out of the fight by those who protect their fiefdoms, and are unwilling to work with someone new. In comparison to disasters, the difference here is that human captivity and modern day slavery is growing exponentially every day. The difference is that we do not get to reset before the next disaster because it surrounds us and grows by the minute. If you represent a group that fights captivity and slavery, we would love to talk to you about who we are and what we do. Captive Audience PTRT is making headway, but we want to fight the problem of captivity and modern day slavery more than we want to fight our way in to the system to fight it.