January is National Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month.
Usually viewed as a global issue, most people do not realize that human trafficking is also a critical issue facing the United States. While data on this issue is challenging to obtain, given the secretive nature of human trafficking, experts estimate that millions of people around the globe are subject to human trafficking, including here in the U.S. Additionally, people are trafficked within the United States, forced into modern slavery without most of us even noticing. It is important for the United States to not only be committed to ending human trafficking internationally, but also that we be committed to recognizing it and ending it within our own country. Unfortunately, being able to recognize human trafficking when we see it may be the most difficult part, as it is incredibly difficult to determine who is a human trafficking victim. Being aware of vulnerable populations and the possibility that they could be trafficked is an important first step.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched the Blue Campaign, which seeks to end human trafficking. One of the goals of the campaign is to work in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations. The Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice. Through the Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice. The website contains materials for a more in-depth human trafficking education and a catalog of materials that can be distributed and displayed in communities. In it’s efforts, DHS utilizes a victim-centered approach to combat human trafficking, which places equal value on identifying and stabilizing victims and on investigating and prosecuting traffickers.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Exploitation includes “the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” The elements of human trafficking, as set out in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, are:
- The Act — Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons;
- The Means — Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim
- The Purpose — For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.
Human trafficking is more commonly referred to as sex trafficking, but it is important to remember that trafficking can take many forms. Labor trafficking is also a huge issue facing both the United States and the world.
What can you do about it?
Do not at any time attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Your safety as well as the victim’s safety is paramount. Instead:
- To get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). The NHTRC can help connect victims with service providers in the area and provides training, technical assistance, and other resources. The NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. The NHTRC is not a law enforcement or immigration authority and is operated by a nongovernmental organization funded by the Federal government.
- The U.S. Department of State has created a comprehensive list of “20 Ways You can Help Fight Human Trafficking.” This list includes actions that everyone can take to create a world without human trafficking. If everyone takes a stand together, we can eliminate modern slavery in this country and in the world.