January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
CW: This blog post discusses human trafficking, abuse, violence, and exploitation.
The United States recognizes January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While this is designation originated in the US in 2010 by presidential proclamation, many other countries, including Canada, take part in education and awareness around human trafficking and slavery during January as well.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking occurs when someone, using force, fraud, or coercion, obtains some form of labor or commercial sex act from the victim, often for the direct profit of the perpetrators. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure their victims into trafficking situations. Human Trafficking is often described a modern-day slavery. Traffickers may recruit, transport, harbor and/or exercise control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Who are the victims?
Anyone, of any age, race, religion, sex, or background can become a victim of human trafficking, however certain groups of people are more commonly victimized and enslaved, or vulnerable to trafficking, than others. Women and children are more likely to be victimized than men. Human trafficking particularly affects women and children who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color), immigrants or migrants.
How big is the problem?
Human Trafficking and Slavery are more prevalent than most people probably think. According to the US State Department, by some estimates, as many as 24.9 million people — adults and children — are trapped in a form of human trafficking around the world, including in the United States. Instability caused by natural disasters, conflict, or a pandemic can increase opportunities for traffickers to exploit others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers are continuing to harm people, finding ways to innovate and even capitalize on the chaos.
How can you tell if someone might be a victim?
There are many signs to watch for. A few of the most common are:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
How you can help
Anyone can join in the fight against human trafficking. If you suspect someone is being victimized, you should not confront them while they are in the presence of the suspected perpetrator, nor should you confront a suspected perpetrator. This could be dangerous for you and the victim. Instead, experts advise you reach out to emergency services or law enforcement to report suspected trafficking.
There are many things you can do to help fight human trafficking beyond reporting suspected trafficking when you see it. You can get involved in your community’s efforts to end trafficking, donate to organizations that fight human trafficking, and much more. Click here for a comprehensive list of ideas for how you can help.
Hope for Justice
US Department of State
Administration for Children & Families – Office on Trafficking in Persons
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
The Human Trafficking Institute
Public Safety Canada
Bedbible Research Center – Sex Trafficking Statistics – How Many Victims?
Royal Canadian Mounted Police