Types of exploitation

It is common for many victims of trafficking to have suffered multiple forms of exploitation, often at the same time. For example, some victims of domestic servitude may also be subjected to sexual exploitation – either from the outset or at certain physical development stages of the child’s life. The following details various types of exploitation victims of trafficking might suffer.

Domestic servitude

Domestic servitude involves carrying out household chores and often caring for the children of that household. Since the work takes place behind closed doors and the domestic worker often lives in the home, the exploitation is usually hidden. Victims can work long hours with no rest days and have their finances controlled by the employer. Victims have been forced to sleep on the floor and are often denied contact with their family. One of our clients suffered from permanent damage to her lungs because she was forbidden from seeking medical treatment for tuberculosis. It is common for domestic workers to suffer from physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well.

Children make up a quarter of the reported number of victims of domestic servitude. They are often be held in private fostering arrangements, which may or may not be with a member of their extended family. They are usually kept away from school and health services. There are also cases where traffickers from West Africa corrupt traditional belief systems to control their victims, who believe they will be punished or killed by the spirits of the deceased for disobedience. These traffickers are notoriously difficult to prosecute due to the victim’s overwhelming fear of these spirits.

Forced labour

Forced labour can take many forms because it involves someone working against their will because of threats or inability to leave. There are certain industries, however, such as restaurant work, agricultural and construction, that are more common for this type of exploitation. The work involves long hours and hazardous conditions. Victims are often housed together in poor and cramped living conditions. Three quarters of forced labour victims are male. Like with domestic servitude and other forms of exploitation, physical, sexual and emotional abuse are often present.

Sex exploitation

Young people are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and both boys and girls are trafficked for this reason. Sexual exploitation can be the form of exploitation, such as through prostitution or pornography, or it can be a means of control such as with sexual servitude or other forced sexual services. Sexual exploitation can exist in private homes, brothels, massage parlours, or nightclubs. It often involves the receipt of ‘gifts’, which can include for example, money, affection, or accommodation, in exchange for performing sexual activities. Sexual activities can also be used as punishment. Violence and intimidation are often involved which increases the young person’s vulnerability and inability to escape the situation of exploitation. It is more common for sexual exploitation of children to take place with other forms of exploitation (i.e. forced labour) than for it to occur in isolation.

Enforced criminality

Exploitation of a young person can take the form of forcing them to do criminal acts, such as pickpocketing, ATM theft, DVD selling, cannabis cultivation, and drug trafficking. Four out of five of those exploited through cannabis cultivation are children and most are from Vietnam. This enforced criminal activity is often led by organised gangs. Being forced to conduct criminal activity stops victims from seeking help for fear of being arrested. Enforced criminality can also involve other forms of exploitation and often victims are locked away in homes. Exploitation can be due to debt bondage, which is when the employer forces the victim to pay off a debt or loan which is often inflated and nearly impossible to escape.

Many children are arrested and charged for cultivating drugs when found in cannabis factories or when found to be shoplifting or pickpocketing when in fact these children may have been trafficked. For more on this see our Criminal law section. In such circumstances, it is important to refer the child to a criminal solicitor.

Benefit fraud

This type of exploitation is on the increase and involves the trafficker claiming state benefits in the victim’s name. The money is then withheld from the victim and kept by the trafficker. The victims tend to be younger, under 12, because younger children are harder to identify and eligible for benefits for longer. The victim might also have several false identities. There is evidence that children exploited for housing benefits were moved between different addresses, often in different local authorities and under the care of different adults, which raises a number of safeguarding concerns.