Tuesday, January 13, 2015

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2015 Reflection

Although the actual day of observation was January 11, I believe it never hurts to be writing about the issue of human trafficking so more people can be aware of this issue and be watchful for signs of trafficking in their community.

Human trafficking is one of many forms taken by modern day slavery. Did you know that there are conservative estimates that there are 27 million slaves in the world today? That's more than at any point in history!!!

For many who are at least aware of the issue, they see it as a problem that is seen in other countries, but there are an alarmingly high number of people estimated to be trafficked within the United States. And honestly, even if one person is being trafficked or forced into slavery, the number is too high!

I have a friend who is doing preliminary research on different forms of aftercare available for victims of human trafficking including homeless shelters, safe houses, and job placement programs. Her plan is to pursue a graduate degree at Princeton to develop a model for quality aftercare. If you are wondering what I mean by aftercare, I’m talking about the long process of rehabilitation and restoration for the trafficked person. These people are often hooked on drugs by their traffickers as well as forced into prostitution. The trauma they undergo is unbelievable.

And this issue is not just a ‘big city’ issue. My previously mentioned friend who is conducting research recently met a woman who was trafficked from Columbus OH to Pittsburgh, PA to Morgantown, WV repeatedly. She was forced into prostitution for years and is currently working toward restoration after years of damage to her body, mind, and spirit.

Want to know a great way you can prevent trafficking? Get involved in the lives of young people. Runaways and young people who do not have a mentor or role model in their life are some of the top targets for traffickers. Support programs in your community that provide mentoring and a healthy environment for at risk young people. Groups that come to mind for me are Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Girls On The Run, and YoungLife. While the focus of each of these groups is slightly different, they provide young people with options and potential role models.

Also, be aware of what is happening in your community. Are there strange vehicles rolling in and out of your neighborhood? Do you know your neighbors? Get to know them! Is there a business in your community that seems suspect? Keep an eye on it. If you see something suspicious be sure to document as much as you can and then call the Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Hotline to share what you observed. As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.” 

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