January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While the prevention of slavery and human trafficking is and should be an issue of great importance all year long, the month is an opportunity to bring the issues to light, raise awareness and acknowledge those who have been or are currently enslaved and those who have escaped.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month was made official on Jan. 2, 2020. The acknowledgement of this month for human trafficking awareness comes in conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of the passing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This act established prevention programs, victim protections and works to advance prosecutions of enslavers by expanding criminal statutes domestically and globally.
Human trafficking, also referred to as modern slavery, happens when someone is forced into a service against their will. Control can be inflicted physically, financially or psychologically. Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is more than just sex trafficking. Currently, over 40 million people are forced into labor, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or forced marriage worldwide — all of which are ways that people are used in modern slavery. The industries that enslave individuals bring in $150 billion annually. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, no matter the age or gender, which is one of the many reasons why it is so important to bring awareness to the issue.
One of the best ways that individuals can help prevent human trafficking is to get to know the signs of someone who may be enslaved. Someone who is fearful of the people around them including authorities or is afraid of telling their story or situation may be a victim of human trafficking. Alternately, someone who is unaware of their situation but simply believes themselves to be in a poor working situation may also be a victim. If someone exhibits signs of physical or psychological trauma, has little freedom of movement, minimal access to healthcare or moves frequently, there may be cause for concern for the person’s safety.
None of these indicators on their own are a sign of human trafficking or enslavement, but if something seems off about a person and they are exhibiting one or more of these behaviors, it may be cause to keep an eye on the person and report the person to the authorities or a human trafficking support organization like Hope for Justice. Reporting them or their behavior is to get them the help that they need and allow those who have the resources to remove the person from their situation and get them to safety.
Another easy way to help curb human trafficking is thinking critically about where your goods and services are coming from. Ask who is making your clothes — where are they coming from? Who is preparing your food? Then, do some research and stay away from brands and services that may be produced by forced labor. Share the information that you learn with friends and family and know that demand for goods and services created by modern slavery fuels the exploitation of people.
Further, as an individual, you can use your voice to ask your representatives how they are addressing human trafficking. Let them know what your community needs and how they can help.
Keep your eyes open to the issues of human trafficking and don’t be afraid to support local individuals and groups fighting human trafficking and modern slavery. Seek to learn about human trafficking efforts in the area where you live.
To report a human trafficking concern, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or contact Hope for Justice at 615-356-0946 or firstname.lastname@example.org.