President Trump has proclaimed January the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It’s estimated that there are 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
Human trafficking, in general terms, refers to the abduction and trade of humans, often for sexual exploitation and forced labor. It is the most rapidly growing criminal industry in the world. According to the U.S. State Department, approximately 20 million people globally are victims of trafficking. Of these, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 55 percent are female, and 26 percent are children.
The President sent out a proclamation saying,
“Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It is not enough merely to denounce this horrific assault on human dignity; we must actively work to prevent and end this barbaric exploitation of innocent victims…and pledge to continue the battle to abolish modern slavery and restore the lives of those affected by human trafficking.”
The President also noted that these crimes often are undetected and underreported “because victims are reluctant to seek help for a variety of reasons, including language barriers, fear of traffickers and law enforcement, and lack of trust. Human trafficking destroys precious lives and threatens our Nation’s security, public health, and the rule of law. It is a scourge on the global community.”
In efforts to do our part and become more knowledgeable follow these tips from the U.S. Department of State and take action.
The Everyone has the potential to discover a human trafficking situation. While the victims may sometimes be kept behind locked doors, they are often hidden right in front of us at, for example, construction sites, restaurants, elder care centers, nail salons, agricultural fields, and hotels. Traffickers’ use of coercion – such as threats of deportation and harm to the victim or their family members – is so powerful that even if you reach out to victims, they may be too fearful to accept your help. Knowing indicators of human trafficking and some follow up questions will help you act on your gut feeling that something is wrong and report it.
Human Trafficking Indicators
While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in prostitution
Questions to Ask
Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?