January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, also known as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Much of the fight against human trafficking involves preventing it in the first place, so it is important to understand what that includes. Better understanding human trafficking prevention can help you move from awareness to action.
As you consider how you will engage in the fight to end human trafficking, review the five important topics below.
1. What Prevention Includes
In order to PREVENT human trafficking, communities must be made aware that this evil exists and must be educated about what puts children, youth, and adults at-risk in their cities. While it takes great effort to bring awareness of human trafficking, it is important to know that there is more to prevention than awareness alone.
There is no one face of a human trafficking victim, but certain populations are more vulnerable. Understanding and addressing factors that lead to vulnerability will aid in preventing exploitation.
Further, without demand, human trafficking would not exist. Communities must consider how to address this root problem – in the lives of individuals, in our culture, and in our laws and policies.
2. What Awareness Includes
While you may have heard about human trafficking happening abroad, in your state, or even in your local community, do you know all the forms it can take? Awareness information or programs should include details about all forms of human trafficking: sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and organ trafficking. And within each of those forms of human trafficking, there are many types of human trafficking that can take place. In one community, traffickers may be exploiting victims through labor trafficking on construction sites, while in another town, trafficking may be happening in the hospitality industry. Elsewhere, minors may be victims of sex trafficking in local hotels, while in another area, foreign national women are being significantly harmed in illicit massage parlors. Knowing the forms and types of human trafficking will help you be aware so you can identify and report what you are seeing in your local community.
If you invite someone to share about human trafficking to a group in which you participate, be sure to ask what is included in their awareness presentation. If they only offer awareness on one form of human trafficking, explore how you can provide information on other forms so you are fully equipping your group with needed information.
3. Prevention is not limited in age or demographic
When exploring prevention efforts or considering how you can incorporate prevention into your work, it is important to know that prevention is needed for all demographics and ages. While prevention for youth may immediately come to mind, adults can also be vulnerable to traffickers, and therefore it is important to explore existing resources or consider how you can include this population in your outreach. Prevention efforts are needed for U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals, as both can be vulnerable to tactics of traffickers. College students, parents, and even the elderly can be victims to human trafficking. Outreaches, programs, and resources for adults can be a way to engage in human trafficking prevention.
For example, a single mother looking to provide for her children, who recently lost her job and subsequently her home, may feel helpless and believe her only options are what a trafficker offers. A father looking to provide for his family may take a job in another state or country, only to find himself in debt bondage to a trafficker or an employer. An elderly woman may take a job as a nanny or housekeeper and find herself in indentured servitude.
4. Vulnerabilities & Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is often the result of compounding vulnerabilities. Human trafficking prevention must include awareness, but it is also important to understand how the vulnerabilities people face can connect to human trafficking.
Foster, runaway, and homeless youth are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. These youth are looking for trusted relationships, shelter, and safety. Reaching youth in these vulnerable moments and providing them safety nets can prevent them from being recruited through the false sense of security offered by traffickers. Refugees, immigrants, single-parent families, and domestic violence victims are all populations that traffickers look to exploit. Providing information to people in these demographics about rights, protections, and resources can prevent traffickers from luring someone into a terrible situation.
5. Your Existing Efforts
You may already be engaging in prevention efforts and not realize it. If you serve at a food bank, volunteer as a mentor, serve at a local soup kitchen, or come alongside any of the populations mentioned above, you are actively engaging in human trafficking prevention. You don’t have to start a new program or initiative. You’re already positioned to make an impact!
In your existing efforts, you can enhance what you are already doing to include human trafficking prevention by offering training to your group and members about what human trafficking is, what to look for, and how to report.
You can come alongside existing efforts and offer your unique skills, talents, resources, and connections. This may be fulfilling wish-lists with specific items needed, or offering services such as landscaping, accounting, or marketing.
Alternatively, you can identify and fill a gap in your community that is desperately needed. First, you must research what efforts already exist in your area, and then explore where your existing talents and resources can help create solutions that do not yet exist.
The next step is to move from awareness to action. Once you have determined what human trafficking looks like in the communities where you live and work, and how vulnerabilities and demand intersect with human trafficking, you can begin to make an impact of your own. Share your knowledge about human trafficking with others, raising awareness among your friends and colleagues. Direct those in your groups and social circles to reliable sources of information to begin their own human trafficking awareness journey. And most of all, don’t stop at awareness – determine how to best use your skills and connections to come alongside existing efforts or create a plan that fills a gap in your community’s human trafficking efforts.