By Deidre Pujols, Strike Out Slavery Founder
The New Year gives me new hope for a healthy, productive 2021, and for the progress we stand to make in the fight against modern-day slavery. January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Now is the time to educate yourself about this growing, multi-billion-dollar industry, and to take the message that everyone deserves to be free to your offices, houses of worship, schools and elected officials.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It involves the illegal trade of human beings, many of whom are among society’s most vulnerable. Victims are often children from the foster care system, or those who run away from abusive life situations; people who have been sexually abused; young adults with alcohol or drug abuse problems; or LGBTQ youth who have been kicked out of their homes.
Human traffickers rob victims of their freedom by purchasing and selling people against their will. Traffickers use force, but can also be stealth in their tactics, especially online. During the pandemic, an increased demand for commercial sex has driven traffickers to manipulate victims through the internet and social media more than ever. Predators establish relationships with children and teens looking to escape the tension, stress and abuse of households that are short on money, food and emotional support. These victims are “groomed” through promises of adventure, fun and even love, only to end up trafficked into forms of commercial sex work.
Labor traffickers work similarly online to lure people with the temptation of well-paying jobs. Think of someone in dire need of a paycheck after losing his or her job due to COVID-19. They apply for a what looks like a good job, exchange several emails or texts with the “employer,” agree to meet in person, and are then trafficked into forced or bonded labor in industries such as agriculture, domestic work, restaurants, cleaning services or carnivals. This is the ultimate theft of freedom and human dignity, and we can all join the fight against it.
During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, let your community know that not everyone is free, but they deserve to be! Click here to download free graphics to use on social media. Be sure to use the hashtag #freedomiseverything
Remaining mindful and doing our part to help prevent human trafficking begins with knowledge. Check out the following resources: The Polaris Project, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or listen to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast by Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. The more you learn and share, the more progress we make as a community to fight human trafficking and support survivors.