A common but difficult question we get asked at Restore is, “how big is the human trafficking industry?”
By its nature, any human trafficking estimates are difficult to formulate. Recently, our partners at Polaris released a groundbreaking report, with collaboration from Restore and other organizations, that helps put a number on that question specifically as it relates to illicit massage businesses (IMBs). IMBs account for the most common industry we see women trafficked in at Restore. These businesses are hidden in plain sight in strip malls and street corners across America.
So, what does the report teach us?
Polaris estimates that there are over 9,000 illicit massage businesses currently open for business in America, generating (laundering) over $2.5 billion dollars in annual revenue.
It’s a terrible number. But, it’s encouraging what targeted efforts to disrupt trafficking can do when there are billions of dollars at stake for the crime rings and traffickers involved.
With Restore’s budget of ~$2.5 million – 0.1% of the funds currently going to criminals exploiting women – we will serve hundreds of trafficking survivors this year. And if we meet our “freedom” impact goal, 90% of the women we serve will be free from trafficking and 10% will cooperate with law enforcement to prosecute their traffickers.
Although the findings in this report demonstrate what we know to be true – that trafficking is all around us, impacting tens of thousands of women every day – we meet this challenge with real solutions to solve this very solvable problem.
Let’s keep at it.