Sex trafficking is a serious and widespread problem around the world. The International Labor Organization that throughout the globe 4.5 million people are victims of forced sexual exploitation. Though all kinds of people are vulnerable to this type of modern-day slavery, this number includes more than 2 million children, and 98 percent of sex trafficking victims are women.
Often lured by the promise of a loving relationship or good job, those who are trapped in the world of sex trafficking are forced or coerced into working in the commercial sex trade via physical and emotional abuse. For children, as many as one in seven endangered runaways were likely victims of sex trafficking, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, though they make up just one particularly vulnerable demographic of that population.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Though a complicated and challenging social crisis, putting an end to sex trafficking has become a goal of many organizations. Human trafficking is a $32 billion international industry, and its scale makes it a problem that institutions across the world need to work together to solve. President Obama has declared January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, as a way to draw attention to the issue and encourage people to get involved.
How Can I Help?
The key to ending sex trafficking is coming together as communities to take responsibility for pointing out anything suspicious to the proper authorities. Part of that will be learning how to recognize vulnerable victims in dangerous situations.
It can be difficult to identify a victim of sex trafficking, but there are warning signs. If you think someone might be in a bad situation, pay attention to how they act. Are they free to come and go as they please? Do they owe a large debt that seems impossible to pay? Are there unusually high security measures at their place of work? Do they appear unhealthy, anxious or show physical signs of abuse? Do they have access to their own money or identification? Are you unable to speak with them without a third party present? Are they able to identify what city or location they’re in?
These and other signs can be indicative of a potential trafficking situation. If you want to get help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to 233733. You can also download a flyer to post at local businesses, bus stops, restaurants and other locations. Helping spread awareness of the issue and letting people know where they can get help and information at any time can be greatly beneficial to ending trafficking.
What Organizations Should I Look Into?
If you’re looking to get even more involved in spreading awareness and preventing trafficking, there are several groups that work on this cause.
National Association of Attorneys General: NAAG is an organization devoted to helping attorneys general fulfill their duties by focusing on various initiatives. Recently, in recognition of the president’s proclamation that January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, NAAG President and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced a new initiative called “Pillars of Hope: Attorneys General Unite Against Human Trafficking.” This was created with the idea that it would allow attorneys general to make ending and preventing human trafficking a priority. McKenna also urged the public to educate themselves on the issue.
Polaris: This organization, named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom, works on various levels in order to end all slave trafficking. This includes working with government officials and large corporations as well as assisting victims in their transition from a life of slavery to freedom. Though this organization doesn’t focus specifically on sex trafficking, it offers everything from clinical social services to educational workshops.
: Not For Sale is a California-based nonprofit focused on telling the stories of human trafficking victims and educating the public on issues. It has multiple campaigns, including one that connects at-risk youth and survivors with job opportunities and another that provides short-term housing and social services. The organization also frequently works with celebrities and athletes to spread awareness and fund its projects. Not For Sale is a U.S.-based nonprofit, but it also has programs in several countries around the world including Thailand, The Netherlands, Peru and Romania.
A21: This organization’s goal is to help end all human trafficking. A21 hopes to accomplish this through a number of different methods including assisting survivors with medical or legal care, prosecuting known human traffickers and spreading awareness of the problem. It also welcomes all types of volunteers to be leaders in their community.
Called to Rescue: This organization focuses on rescuing minors who are being abused or exploited. In addition to awareness and public education programs, Called to Rescue has created worldwide safe houses and works with both civilian and governmental organizations to further its cause.
As you can see, there are many organizations working to end global sex trafficking. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself and others about the signs of abuse, so you can help put a stop to the suffering of 4.5 million people.