by Alex Salzberg
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In many ways, this issue is a key part of a global system that relies on the forced labor of vulnerable persons. Trafficking can also intersect with and be a part of domestic violence. It is important to raise awareness about this issue so that we can continue to reduce its impact in 2020 and beyond.
The issue of human trafficking is widespread but not often spoken about. Human trafficking is any instance in which an individual is forced into labor or sex work by force, blackmail, or other coercion against their will.
Globally, it is estimated that 40.3 million individuals are trafficked each year. According to the Polaris Project, 81% of the victims are forced into labor, 81% are children, and 75% are women and girls.
Human trafficking may seem like an issue far away from the US. It may feel like an issue that doesn’t really affect us or one that we have no control over. The truth is that human trafficking can occur anywhere, including in the US and in New York City.
In the US alone, it is estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100, 000 cases of human trafficking each year. There was such little awareness of the human trafficking problem in the US that it did not become illegal until 2000.
Human trafficking may occur through a variety of methods. In some cases, victims are sold or abducted, while in other cases they are brought into trafficking through a process or grooming and isolation. The main similarity between dating abuse among youth and domestic sex trafficking of youth is the use of threats and violence to maintain power and control. In addition, survivors of both share experiences of shame and guilt over the abuse. They may not recognize signs of abusive behavior, and have experienced similar barriers to seeking help (lack of awareness of legal and social services).
Human trafficking does not always look the same. An employee/employer relationship is common, but it can also appear as if the victim is in a relationship with their captor, especially in cases of intersecting intimate partner violence (IPV) and trafficking. Sometimes an abusive relationship may start out with some consent and then turn into a trafficking situation as it becomes more severe. Other times, the captor will force the victim to pretend that they are in a consensual relationship even though they are forcing the victim to act against their will.
Youth who are or have been in sexually abusive dating relationships are at high risk of domestic sex trafficking because they have experienced physical and sexual violence by a romantic partner. In addition, many young survivors view their relationship with their trafficker as a dating relationship.
There are things that you can do to help:
1. Be aware of the signs of human trafficking:
Not every case of human trafficking looks the same, but it is important to be aware of what to look for if you are suspicious that there may be an issue. Often times, there will be poor living conditions (many people living in one place, an employee living with their employer), signs of physical abuse like bruising, or unusual behavior. The individuals may appear fearful,or you are not able to speak with the individual unsupervised. If you suspect abuse between a couple you can observe whether or not the suspected victim is giving rehearsed answers to questions, or is not able to carry their own money or identification.
2. You can ask questions:
If you are able to speak with the person privately or casually in a public place you can ask questions that may give you more information. Asking about whether the victim can leave their job, if they can come and go as they please, if they have been threatened or are scared of their employer, or if they have a debt to their employer are all important questions to ask.
3. Seek help:
It is not always clear whether a person is a victim of human trafficking even when you know the signs. If you are suspicious, it is best to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. The hotline can provide information and guide you to next steps if need be. It is also always important to call 911 if there is an emergency or if the conditions are dire.
4. Stay Educated:
You can also check out the following organizations by clicking below or following any of the hyperlinks in the article above.
Finally, you can use the links below to request that Day One hold a training at your school, organization, or workplace.