9 – Learn the “PUSH” Factors in Human Trafficking

Ending Human Trafficking Podcast Logo

Sandra Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss the “push” factors behind human trafficking. They then look at how good prevention models address these vulnerabilities in the community to prevent the likelihood of someone being trafficked.

Key Points

  • Push factors are the supply side to the demand/supply equation.
  • Victim Centered Model: A term that has developed from the way law enforcement would approach a crime scene by looking at it with the idea to protect and extend dignity towards victims.
  • Primary factors that increases vulnerability to be a push factor such as gender, age, ethnic minority, abuse and disabilities.
  • Secondary factors linked to move people from being more vulnerable to less vulnerable by looking at symptoms such as poverty, education, employment and documentation.


[Note from the Ending Human Trafficking podcast team: This episode was recorded in 2011 so the contact information provided is no longer accurate. Please refer endinghumantrafficking.org/contact for the correct contact information to get in touch with the EHT podcast.]

Love the show? Consider supporting us on Patreon!


Dave Stachowiak [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 9, recorded in July, 2011.

Dave Stachowiak [00:00:22] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandra Morgan [00:00:27] And I’m Sandie Morgan.

Dave Stachowiak [00:00:29] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking.

Dave Stachowiak [00:00:38] Hello, Sandie, welcome back for our ninth episode together. Hard to believe, huh?

Sandra Morgan [00:00:43] Yeah, it’s great. I’m getting really into this. I love the opportunity to have a dialouge. And I love the responses that we’re receiving from people. And I appreciate that. And I want to encourage people, if you have a question, a comment, or a suggestion on the kinds of topics you’d like to hear more about, please email us at GCWJ@vanguard.edu or call us at 714-556-3610, extension 2242.

Dave Stachowiak [00:01:14] And today we are going to be looking at a couple of key factors in what causes human trafficking. And the more we can keep ourselves educated, Sandie, the more that we can really understand what are the factors we could also approach on ending human trafficking. And we’re going to be talking today about the push factors and the pull factors that are involved with human trafficking. And that’s the terminology that the that folks are really advocates are using, correct?

Sandra Morgan [00:01:44] Exactly, exactly. And of course, that the closest real-life example of what this is all related to is in business when you talk about the law of supply and demand. And we talked about that in an earlier podcast. Human trafficking is big business. It’s about people making money. And so you have to begin to understand what makes someone, a person, a human being, part of a supply chain for a big business, something that is considered a commodity that can be bought and sold. How do we begin to identify the patterns that result in a person being sold? And those issues are things we want to address as push factors. So we’re going to leave the trafficker to the side today. We’re going to not focus on how to identify or rescue victims who are already being trafficked. But if we want to end human trafficking, we have to go further upstream to prevention models. And that means we need to understand how someone becomes so easily accessible to become part of a supply chain. What are the push factors for that?

Dave Stachowiak [00:03:04] This is I think for me, it’s the language is always a little awkward just because usually when we’re talking about supply and demand and supply chains, we’re talking about parts and raw materials, and just in time supply chains and major corporations. And unfortunately, those same concepts are happening in human trafficking because it is such a profitable enterprise and it really is an enterprise. That’s what’s driving a lot of the trafficking is the profit that’s involved, Sandie. And so it’s, although it’s odd that we’re using this language to talk about human beings, we have to in order to really understand the full scope of this issue. And it comes right down to Econ 101: Supply and Demand. And so, I’m glad we’re looking at this to really get a good feel for that.

Sandra Morgan [00:03:57] And you bring up a really good point because it’s a dehumanizing activity and that makes this issue a human rights activity. What we’re doing is speaking up for the rights of others. And these are people who are created in the image of God. And one person has that stamp just like another person. And so there’s no difference in the value between a child born on the west coast of Africa and a child born here in Southern California.

Dave Stachowiak [00:04:30] And so today we’re going to be looking at the push factors, correct? And that’s the that’s the supply side of the demand-supply equation and kind of the law of supply and demand, correct?

Sandra Morgan [00:04:40] Exactly. And in a victim-centered model, one of the things we have to understand is who are the victims and how did they become victims.

Dave Stachowiak [00:04:49] Before you even go into that, Sandie, could you tell us more about just that terminology, victim-centered model? I’ve heard you use that a few times and I’m not sure I understand that, that the definition of that. Is that different than other types of models that people would look at?

Sandra Morgan [00:05:02] It’s really a term that has developed out of law enforcement approaches to human trafficking. Here in Orange County using a victim-centered model meant that law enforcement would approach a crime scene, for instance, a brothel, an illegal brothel, with the idea that some of the people in that illegal activity vicinity were not criminals, but were, in fact, victims. And so they began to approach the entire case differently and extend the kind of dignity and opportunities for basic rights to be able to tell their story to protect them. So then you have the protection and the prosecution as part of that 3P model. Remember, prevention, protection, prosecution.

Dave Stachowiak [00:05:55] Right.

Sandra Morgan [00:05:55] But if you don’t treat them like victims, you treat them like criminals because they are actually involved in a criminal activity, then they’re not going to be free to testify so that we can get those prosecutions and we aren’t going to really be able to identify their actual exploited experience.

Dave Stachowiak [00:06:16] And I can imagine that that has been, and probably still is, a major mindset shift for law enforcement in that the typical traditional thing and the easy, quote-unquote, easy thing to do is to get a number of arrests and you find people engaged in criminal activity and you arrest them and you have arrest numbers. But as we’ve talked about on many occasions, that often doesn’t get to the root of what’s really going on, the larger issue. And so–

Sandra Morgan [00:06:44] That’s what we want to talk about, the bigger issues, so that we can begin to identify how to make it more difficult to easily assess that supply chain.

Dave Stachowiak [00:06:56] Thanks for clarifying that for me. So let’s jump in. Let’s talk about a couple of these push factors and it looks like we’re going to talk about, we have our notes in front of us here, and we’ve divided these into a couple of different categories. One are some primary factors and then one are the secondary. The other one’s the secondary factor. Sandie, so why don’t we start off with the primary push factors? What are some of the key things that really do push supply?

Sandra Morgan [00:07:22] Well, what we’ve determined in the literature is that gender, age, if they’re widows, if they’re an ethnic minority in their vicinity, if they’ve been experiencing abuse already, or if they have disabilities, those kinds of bottom-line things that a person doesn’t have any control over. These are things that become primary to developing push factors that increase their vulnerability to become part of the supply.

Dave Stachowiak [00:07:54] So let’s look at those one-by-one and take a look at what it is that causes that particular factor to be a factor, a push factor in human trafficking. Let’s start off with gender. This may be an obvious one, but I think it’s an important one for us to discuss, too.

Sandra Morgan [00:08:10] Well, and it certainly falls within the framework of the Global Center for Women and Justice.

Dave Stachowiak [00:08:14] Yeah, for sure.

Sandra Morgan [00:08:15] Gender is a big issue. We have very different social constructs for the roles of men and women in different countries, different societies, different cultures. But bottom line is that gender is a social construct and sex is physiological. So they’re male and they’re a female. It depends on where you are, how women, and how men are treated. So in 2008, the United Nations produced some studies that indicated that women owned less than 1 percent of property globally.

Dave Stachowiak [00:08:54] It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Sandra Morgan [00:08:56] And when you understand the basis for power, land ownership is huge. So if women owned less than 1 percent of property, what does that say to their ability to control their circumstances? These are issues that we don’t think of so much here in Southern California in my home.

Dave Stachowiak [00:09:19] Or here in the States, you know–

Sandra Morgan [00:09:21] Anywhere. Because in my experience, when we own a home, my name is on the deed. It’s my husband and myself. Not only his name. But in many cultures, women owning property is not an easy thing to have happen. So property ownership is an issue that drives the gender construct that reduces the power base for a woman. Other things like son preference, and this is something that we are seeing continue to rise. There was a report just this week in one country where the number of abortions of little girl babies had jumped again in another area. That means that the desire to have a boy, because of the kind of technology that we have now for determining the sex before birth, results in reducing the number of little girls born. So even before birth, even before birth, the discrimination is there because of son preference. I think there was a big news magazine, it might have been Times, that ran a cover story that said 100 million women missing globally, and they were talking about son preference. How does that impact human trafficking?

Dave Stachowiak [00:10:52] I do. I do remember that, seeing that on the cover, but I can’t remember which one. But yeah.

Sandra Morgan [00:10:56] Well, even if the child is born, that son preference continues to be a decision-making process in the home. So that in a place where there are reduced accessibility issues with education, with medication, with food, then the choices for who gets those limited resources are based on son preference. So, for example, you have a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. You have a sickness that’s going through the village and they need to get antibiotics and you have enough money for antibiotics for one child. Which child do you get the antibiotics for? For the child that as an adult will be more productive. So that will be the boy because he has more opportunities and the little girl doesn’t have the same opportunities and those same decisions are made so that then if you are in a situation where there’s a debt, there’s challenges where your children are kind of your resources. Parents make very difficult choices, not because they want to, but based on the patterns that have been established in those cultures and we are hoping to see changed. So that the little girl is the one who is forced into domestic servitude to pay a debt, not the little boy.

Dave Stachowiak [00:12:31] So all of these things I mean, just around gender and just those types of issues can lead to human trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking.

Sandra Morgan [00:12:41] And increased vulnerability to becoming part of the supply chain because you’re more easily assess, accessed than the boy just because of your gender. Again, and in the same scope of gender is if you’re a widow, that increases your chances of your risk for being trafficked.

Dave Stachowiak [00:13:05] How so?

Sandra Morgan [00:13:05] Because again, when your husband dies, the property stays in his family, it’s in a patriarchal line, and you have no resources. And so how do you support yourself? And in some studies, the number of women who are pulled into commercial sex is directly related to the fact that they are widows. And in fact, one study in the war area around Iraq showed that many of the, and in fact, 60 percent was the statistic that they determined, 60 percent of the refugees that ended up in brothels being sold for commercial sex were widows. And they had no options outside for survival. And they were coming as refugees from war-torn areas.

Dave Stachowiak [00:14:03] How does age play a factor?

Sandra Morgan [00:14:06] Age is a factor because the younger, and we talked about brain physiology, these kids don’t have the same resources to protect themselves, but they also don’t have the ability to make good decisions and to take risk factors into their decision-making process. Consequently, when someone offers them a way out of horrific circumstances, they’re very easy to entice. And when you talk to traffickers, to pimps for commercial sexual exploitation businesses, you will begin to understand that the supply is so easy to access that they often are not resorting to violence and kidnapping. Because it’s much easier to recruit a willing victim who doesn’t understand what they’re agreeing to do when they think they’re going to a job. So age becomes a risk factor, partly because of the developmental stage, so that their understanding to protect themselves is not as high. Age is also an issue when it comes to their resources. They can’t get a real job. They don’t have a place to live. Homeless youth is an issue globally. And many people will point to countries like in Ukraine. When I visited in January, I learned that the number of street children between 12 and 17 was in the thousands in just one city. But I came back to California only to find out in February that in California we have two hundred thousand homeless, 12 to 17-year-olds, on any given week.

Dave Stachowiak [00:16:01] It’s incredible.

Sandra Morgan [00:16:02] So age is a risk factor.

Dave Stachowiak [00:16:04] Yeah. Oh, man. And a tough one to get our minds around because unfortunately, children are so often victims of this, because of circumstance, not because of, you know, they’re doing or anything. So it’s um–

Sandra Morgan [00:16:21] And I think we’ve also mentioned it because it’s related. The issue of abuse that is already been experienced and, either by children and even by adults, when they’re living in an abusive environment that totally increases their vulnerability to being recruited because this is a way out of what is already a hellish life.

Dave Stachowiak [00:16:47] Tell me about the, we have down here, ethnic minorities. How does ethnicity play a role in this?

Sandra Morgan [00:16:54] Ethnicity is a really intricate, we could do an entire program just on the risks related to ethnicity.

Dave Stachowiak [00:17:02] All right. I’m writing that down. We will.

Sandra Morgan [00:17:03] We will do one. But just off, for just a brief glimpse at that. One of the things that we’ve identified is that many of the recruiters that bring victims to destination countries, especially Western more economically affluent countries, are from the same ethnicity. And they’re usually in a place where that group is not the empowered group, doesn’t have the same access to resources to wealth. And so consequently, they are already in a struggle for some kind of equitable place in their culture. And so escaping and going to a place where there are more opportunities in the West, it’s that dream, is very, very attractive to them.

Dave Stachowiak [00:18:00] And abuse and disability play roles in this as well.

Sandra Morgan [00:18:04] We, and this is one thing that breaks my heart. Victims who have physical and mental disabilities are very easy to manipulate. A deaf child, a child with some kind of mental disability. They are not, they can’t easily figure out who to tell what’s happening. They may not even have any opportunity to tell anybody. And so people with disabilities are particularly egregious cases and definitely something we need to be addressing a lot more in our own country and globally.

Dave Stachowiak [00:18:48] And you mentioned also abuse. What is, when we think about abuse, how does that play a role in trafficking?

Sandra Morgan [00:18:59] When we talk about abuse, there are different stages and kinds of abuse. But particularly a child who’s growing up in a home where sexual abuse is a problem, they’re going to be looking for a way out of that. They want their own control. And we, but we’ve also seen women who are trying to escape a family violence situation, intimate partner violence. And they want to find a place where it’s safe and where people will take care of them. And because many of those abuse paradigms are in situations where there is a lot of control and the finances are controlled, the resources are controlled, that person escapes that abusive situation with nothing, no resources. And consequently, survival becomes their, their first basis of making choices. So when someone offers them a place to stay, offers them some way to make their way forward, they’re very vulnerable.

Dave Stachowiak [00:20:12] It’s unfortunately very easy to see how all of these can be factors. And, of course, for some people, many, if not all of these things come into practice and come into play as far as how they would end up in human trafficking.

Sandra Morgan [00:20:29] And that’s why the second level is so important. Because the second level isn’t just some more problems, but these are actually somehow linked to how we can move people from being more vulnerable to being less vulnerable.

Dave Stachowiak [00:20:48] So these are these secondary factors would be things that would keep them from being as vulnerable or–?

Sandra Morgan [00:20:54] Well, when we address these are, these are like the symptoms.

Dave Stachowiak [00:20:56] Oh, I see what you are saying.

Sandra Morgan [00:20:57] It’s kind of, you know, remember, I’m a nurse. So if you have a disease, I’m going to be able to see what your problem is based on your symptoms. So the secondary things are really symptoms and they’re things that we can be used to be able to identify those root problems.

Dave Stachowiak [00:21:14] I see.

Sandra Morgan [00:21:15] And begin to figure out ways to address those root problems.

Dave Stachowiak [00:21:18] So we can do more about the secondary factors than we can about the primary factors. As far as how we would serve someone.

Sandra Morgan [00:21:27] Well, we need to keep those things in mind as we develop plans for sustainable approaches to ending the causes of those root push factors.

Dave Stachowiak [00:21:38] OK. Well, let’s take a look at the secondary factors then and see what, what comes into play here.

Sandra Morgan [00:21:44] Well, we’re going to look at poverty, education, employment, and documentation. Poverty is a given. If someone has no resources and someone offers them money, they’re going to be much more at risk if there’s nothing in their pocket to buy bread, to pay for their electricity so that they can have heat or in today’s weather right now, air conditioning to survive. So how do we address those poverty issues? And that is really related to the next two things education and employment. People who have not had the opportunity–the um, that I can’t find exactly the right word–education empowers people, it gives them tools and resources that are for self-reliance. And with education, someone can figure out how to start their own business. They learn business practices. And we’ve seen incredible opportunities for women in development as starting their own business. Entrepreneurs has become a big, big way of addressing the poverty issues that make women more vulnerable to being exploited. Education is going to help us reduce the poverty level, but even if you educate people, if there are no jobs, what are they going to do with that education?

Dave Stachowiak [00:23:23] Which is a huge problem, of course, in the Middle East right now. And part of the what has been termed the Arab Spring of well-educated folks who don’t have job opportunities. And it’s caused a tremendous amount of social unrest. So I would imagine that there are some of those same factors at play here when we are looking at things through a human trafficking lens.

Sandra Morgan [00:23:45] And when we look at how we’re going to address those employment options, we are looking for real business models. We’re looking for sustainable business models that will build the economy in that community and consequently reduce risk for everyone, not just girls, but also boys, young women, and men.

Dave Stachowiak [00:24:10] And the education and employment, I’m sure, just like, you know, here in the states where we live, it goes hand-in-hand. The more education you have, the more employable you are and vise versa. So it’s amazing how much these all link together to be factors and risk factors, really.

Sandra Morgan [00:24:28] And if there are no jobs, if there are no jobs in your community, then you’re going to be reading the newspaper every day looking for a job in a nearby city. And then when you think about moving to a nearby city, then it’s not that hard to think about moving to a different state or a different country because you need a job. A job is how we survive. And when you take that risk to move, then you factor in this last issue with secondary problems. And that’s the issue of documentation, identity papers. To get that job, people will often use tactics that are illegal. And smugglers, that’s a crime. But people who provide documents to bring someone across the border illegally to exploit them, that’s not smuggling, that’s trafficking and has a much higher penalty. It’s a human rights violation, not an immigration issue. And that’s another issue I’d like to invite an attorney to come in and interview with us on how that all works. But the bottom line is, the supply chain for human trafficking is full of people who had no options, but they had a dream. And that dream for a better life–to find options, to find a job, to be able to support their families–that dream is what placed them in the place of risk where they were so easy to recruit and fill the supply need for a business person who was selling human beings for their own profit to meet the demand of whatever their business happens to be, whether it’s labor or sex trafficking. Either way, it’s the exploitation of humans and the dehumanizing of an individual.

Dave Stachowiak [00:26:33] So bottom line, it really comes down to, and again, it’s hard to look at it through this lens, Sandie, but bottom line, it really becomes an economic decision in a lot of ways.

Sandra Morgan [00:26:44] Exactly. Exactly.

Dave Stachowiak [00:26:46] For the trafficker and for those who are trafficked.

Sandra Morgan [00:26:49] You know, we have, I remember teaching my kids how to make a decision, make a column of pluses and minuses. What about the pros and the cons? And so if I’m I’m at a 14-year-old girl with families that my family needs things. There are no jobs here. And someone offers me a job to wash dishes in a restaurant in California. And I put down the pluses and minuses. Well, the pluses: there’s a job in California. The minuses? Well, there aren’t any minuses. Because I have no job here. I have no education. I have no opportunities. So this seems like a good idea. And just telling people don’t do it is not enough. We have to begin to address those root push factors so that that won’t happen. And I’m really excited about our next podcast because we’re going to interview a young couple living in Honduras, who went back to the root causes and found a way to establish a sustainable business in a place where young people had no employment opportunities. And I can’t wait to talk to them.

Dave Stachowiak [00:28:06] And I’m excited to talk to them, too, to learn what more we can know about that side of the equation, because I think probably we hear less about the push factors than we do the pull factors in just the media and things that are we’re here in popular media right now. So I’m looking forward to hearing their perspective as well, too. And speaking of keeping ourselves educated, we are not sure if we mentioned on the last podcast, but we were continuing to remind everyone about the conference that’s going to be coming up at the beginning of 2012 that the Global Center for Women and Justice is hosting at Vanguard University here in Southern California. And I know for many of you, March of 2012 seems like an awful long way away. And particularly because here in the states, for those of you here in the states, and particularly those of you in the Midwest, it has been a hot few weeks. So many places are been in the 100 degree plus temperature zone. And I know what that’s like because I grew up in Chicago and I know all of you are sweating and thinking, why would I want to come to California? Well, at the first week of March, it is going to be cold and snowy and freezing everywhere in the country. And in Southern California, it’s going to be about 70 degrees.

Sandra Morgan [00:29:19] That’s right.

Dave Stachowiak [00:29:20] And warm and sunny, hopefully. And so that would be one reason you’d want to, for sure, come out. But, of course, the more important reason is because you’re going to really educate yourself and be able to study these issues in great depth. And so, Sandie, could you tell us a little bit about what we should expect at the conference coming up on March 2nd and March 3rd.

Sandra Morgan [00:29:42] March 2nd and 3rd, Women, Education and Justice. And this is an opportunity for us to really begin to understand what it is we need to say, what we need to do. Our tagline for the center is study the issues, be a voice, make a difference. Sometimes we want to jump in and start talking about things and we might actually be going in the wrong direction. So we’re going to spend two days looking at the issues that surround particularly the gender of risks that are inherent in the situation globally for women. And hopefully, we will walk away with new partnerships, new collaboration, new ideas, new things we need to study so that we can understand better what to say and understand better what to do.

Dave Stachowiak [00:30:35] And not only that but a great network of people who also care deeply about these issues and can form great partnerships to really assist all of us in helping be advocates against human trafficking. And so we’re going to build some great relationships in March, Sandie, so we hope that you’ll plan to join us as well. And as Sandie mentioned, we’re going to be having some special guests for our next episode coming up here in two weeks. And so we’re excited to have them. And Sandie, thanks again for your time and your expertise. We’re so glad to have you. You’re a real treasure for Vanguard.

Sandra Morgan [00:31:08] Thank you. And I, if you’re looking for information on any of the things we’ve talked about, please go to GCWJ.vanguard.edu.

Dave Stachowiak [00:31:13] Or you can email us, GCWJ@vanguard.edu, and we will see you next time. Thanks, Sandie.

Sandra Morgan [00:31:24] Bye.

Scroll to Top