Written by Maribel Rivera
In 2007, the United States Senate designated January 11th as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Three years later, the month of January was first declared as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by Presidential Proclamation. Since then, January has been a time nationally to acknowledge those experiencing trafficking and slavery in some form and recognize those who have escaped. Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized internationally each June.
Human trafficking is the world’s second most profitable criminal enterprise with the illegal drug trade being first. Human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by using force, fraud or coercion to trap people for commercial sex or labor against their will.
As per the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 10,949 human trafficking cases reported between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018 in the United States. Of those reported cases, 7,859 were for sex trafficking, 1,249 for labor trafficking, 639 for both sex and labor, and 1,202 were unspecified. The Hotline also reported that of these cases 7,126 were female and 2,378 were minors (www.humantraffickhotline.org/states). Keep in mind that the majority of human trafficking cases go unreported.
Runaway and homeless youth (including members of our LGBTQ community), victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are most vulnerable to traffickers who employ a variety of control tactics, including sexual assault, confiscation of any and all identification and money, and isolation from friends and family to name a few.
In 2017, it was estimated that 1 out of 7 endangered runaways were likely child sex trafficking victims with 88% being in the care of social services or foster care when they ran away. (https://polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/facts).
Traffickers identify and leverage vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for many reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their family’s safety.
Traffickers can be anyone who profits from the selling of a child or adult. This includes:
- family members
- foster parents
- gangs or friends
- adults sometimes acting as a “boyfriend or “girlfriend”
Traffickers are known to target vulnerable children and adults and lure them into sex trafficking using physical and psychological manipulation. They may sometimes even resort to violence.
Any child may be vulnerable to a person who promises to fulfill that child’s needs. Often, traffickers will create a seemingly loving or caring relationship with their victim in order to establish trust and loyalty. This manipulative relationship tries to ensure the victim will remain loyal to the exploiter even in the face of severe victimization and mental distress.
Recognizing the potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying victims and helping them find the assistance they need. We will dive deeper into these signs in a follow up post.
If you currently suspect someone could be a victim, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
No one organization or individual is capable of stopping human trafficking alone. In order to successfully combat this global epidemic, companies, as well as individuals, must create strategic partnerships to respond to the issue on all levels. This is why Life Preservers Project has aligned ourselves over the past decade with organizations such as GEMS, NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Saving Jane, Covenant House, and New Alternatives. In the next year, we hope to expand these relationships further and add new organizations to our list of allies.
We also encourage each member of our growing community to learn more about human trafficking issues and what they can do to help raise awareness and provide assistance. In 2020, we hope to host educational seminars, post interviews, and write more articles to help educate and raise awareness.
Right now, for National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Life Preservers Project will be hosting a toiletry drive for human trafficking survivors and homeless youth. Please consider donating new items including:
- travel-sized shampoo/conditioner, body wash, deodorant or bar of soap
- lip balm
- small travel blankets
- gloves, hats or scarves
Items can be shipped to us at:
Life Preservers Project
2 Dawes Avenue
West Orange, NJ 07052
Wear blue on January 11th in support of human trafficking and modern day slavery survivors. You can share to our Facebook or post to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram and tag us and include the hashtag #LPPWearsBlue.
Maribel Rivera sits on the executive board of Life Preservers Project and volunteers her time to manage the marketing and events for the nonprofit organization. She is a senior marketing leader that helps brands and businesses connect with their audiences and achieve growth goals.