Raise Awareness: Human Trafficking
I don’t know any topic more prevalent and critical to raising awareness of than human trafficking. It’s an issue that we all know is out there, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Like anything, however, we can’t change what we’re not first aware of. I’ve compiled a few simple facts and thoughts surrounding the topic to initiate a movement and encourage all of my readers to play their part in combating this modern-day holocaust.
Holocaust. I said it. The goal of traffickers is exploitation and enslavement of their victims, just as in the concentration camps during WWII. Every continent in the world has been involved in human trafficking. In the United States, it is most prevalent in Texas, Florida, New York and California. Human trafficking is both a domestic and global crime, with victims trafficked within their own country, to neighboring countries and between continents.
Victims of trafficking can be of any age and any gender.
Women and children are often used for sexual exploitation, while men are more likely to be used for forced labor. Globally, about one in five victims of human trafficking are children. Children are also exploited for the purposes of forced begging, child pornography or child labor. Their smaller hands may also be used in tasks like sewing or untangling fishing wire (Lemke, 2020. crs.org)
The National Human Trafficking Hotline offers information about who may be most vulnerable. Included on this list are individuals living in poverty, who have a history of domestic violence or abuse, have run away or are part of the juvenile justice system, having a caregiver addicted to substance or who have a substance abuse disorder themselves.
Traffickers can be family members, romantic partners, acquaintances or strangers. Promises and stories are the weapons they use to lure in victims – promises of romantic love, safety and stability or stories of high paying jobs and happier lives are very appealing to the vulnerable populations identified above. Labor trafficking occurs when an individual is coerced into completing challenging manual labor over long hours for little or no pay. Sex trafficking occurs when an individual is made to perform sexual acts through force, fraud or coercion.
Sometimes, the stories themselves raise red flags. Other times, traffickers or potential traffickers may raise red flags during recruitment. Here are a few situations that might raise concerns (taken from humantraffickinghotline.org):
A would-be employer refuses to give workers a signed contract or asks them to sign a contract in a language they can’t read.
A would-be employer collects fees from a potential worker for the “opportunity” to work in a particular job.
A friend, family member, co-worker, or student is newly showered with gifts or money or otherwise becomes involved in an overwhelming, fast-moving, and asymmetric (e.g. large difference in age or financial status) romantic relationship.
A friend, family member, or student is a frequent runaway and may be staying with someone who is not their parent or guardian.
A family member, friend, co-worker, or student is developing a relationship that seems too close with someone they know solely on social media.
A family member, friend, or student lives with a parent or guardian and shows signs of abuse.
A family member, friend, or co-worker is offered a job opportunity that seems too good to be true.
A family member, friend, or co-worker is recruited for an opportunity that requires them to move far away, but their recruiter or prospective employer avoids answering their questions or is reluctant to provide detailed information about the job.
If you suspect someone may have fallen victim, some questions you can ask them to gain further insight include:
Can you leave your job if you want to? Can you come and go as you please? Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave? Has your family been threatened? Do you live with your employer? Where do you sleep and eat? Are you in debt to your employer? Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?
Where to Get Help
If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. For further help and guidance, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline described below.