What We Learned during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

By Cynthia Sularz

February 8, 2018

Human trafficking is not an issue faced solely in distant countries—it’s also faced right here in the United States.

In 2007, the United States Senate declared January 11th, Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

The day is meant to raise awareness of sexual slavery and human trafficking worldwide. Human trafficking tragically incorporates a wide variety of human rights violations. This includes, but is not limited to, the forcing of children into combat or prostitution as well as the involuntary relocation of migrants to perform labor without pay.

The observation was then expanded in 2010, when President Obama designated the month of January, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Human trafficking is not an issue faced solely in distant countries—it’s also faced right here in the United States. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked, and many of them are women and children.

Refugee children at the Centre Tenda Di Abramo of the Community of Sant’Egidio, at the time of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the reception center.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are currently 24.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. Within that number, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across the United States’ borders each year. Some 71% are women and girls. Most of human trafficking is hidden, and thus accurate numbers are difficult to obtain.

This month, our partners worked to raise awareness about human trafficking, and educate people on how to combat it. While fighting human trafficking may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that knowledge is empowering. Simply understanding how to spot the signs of human trafficking and how to react, can make a stark difference.

Together, we can learn how to identify and assist a victim of human trafficking.

Here are a few indicators you can look out for, according to the United States Department of State:

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

If you believe someone is subjected to human trafficking, it is essential you alert your law enforcement either through 911 or 1-888-373-7888, the National Human Trafficking Hotline (the option to text “BeFree” (233733) is also available if the ability to call is impossible). When traveling, please alert the nearest authority, whether that be airport security or local law enforcement.

Do not attempt to rescue the victim. It is impossible to predict how the trafficker would react, and such an attempt could result in retaliation at the expense of the victim or yourself.

It is also essential that you speak with your child about the potential dangers of human trafficking. UNICEF’s “How to Talk to Your Kids About Trafficking”  is a great resource to make approaching this difficult subject easier.

It’s through having these discussions that our local communities become aware of the issue of human trafficking and how to prevent it. We can then build upon this knowledge to build safer societies for our children and eradicate the potential for human trafficking to thrive.

Scene from a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) known as “Site du Petit Seminaire St. Pierre Claver”, in the town of Bangassou, Central African Republic, during the week of Secretary-General António Guterres’ visit to the country. The Secretary-General aims to draw attention to the fragile situation in the country “that is often far from the media spotlight.”.

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