Statistics show that human trafficking is happening in every state of the U.S. yet most people you ask wouldn’t be able to say they had seen trafficking happening around them, this issue for the most part goes unseen which creates the illusion that freedom is universal in our country.
The difficulty of combating against human trafficking is that victims are not often in physical enslavement. Their enslavement is invisible. This invisibility protects those in the wrong while making it harder for the general public to understand what is actually happening in their country, state, and town.
A large obstacle that creates invisibility around those being trafficked is lack of education. For example, if someone doesn’t know what a commercial sex act is, any sexual act in which something of value is exchanged, than it will be near impossible for them to believe that commercial sex acts are happening in the local schools. If it is not called by the right name it cannot be stopped. An elderly woman once told me about how her mom used to make her go out on dates with men forty years older than her. By using the word “dates” she was unknowingly making the truth that he mother was exploiting her invisible. Her freedom was taken away from her by her own mother’s actions, and it was covered by an innocent word.
Visibility is key, and education brings about visibility. IJM estimates that there are 45+ million people enslaved today in the world. Organizations, such as Thorn, have cited national studies that calculated about 325,000 children in North America alone are at risk of sexual exploitation. Those numbers represent actual people that are unseen, unnoticed, and unheard. Polaris Project’s textline combined with the national hotline have tracked reports of human trafficking cases happening in all 50 states, during the year of 2015. And the two lines have received over 25,600 reported cases since December of 2007. (Polaris Project) These numbers prove that there are people in our country that are not free. Their enslavement is hidden from our view, though they may be in plain sight.
Last week NBC published a news article about an Uber driver in California who recently helped rescue a 16 year old girl from human trafficking. Keith Avila picked up three women for their ride and overheard this girl’s two traffickers talking in his backseat about “delivering her to a John.” After the three of them left his car he called the police. These women were riding in an Uber, in plain sight of the world, bringing a young girl to a hotel “to be delivered.” This wasn’t hidden, though it could have gone unseen if Avila was not aware of what was happening around him.
Everyone should have access to the same freedoms, but until we are able to stop those who choose to exploit we cannot end human trafficking. Education brings about awareness, and awareness is key to ending human trafficking. Education can have a twofold impact, it can help those who are being exploited find access to freedom again and it can demonstrate to exploiters the negative repercussions their actions are creating. My challenge for you would be to take this month long journey with us to learn more about what human trafficking really looks like. To see myths debunked, and facts brought to light. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to gain more visibility into a nationwide issue. Join us as we learn why It Could Be Me.
Written by Rebecca R., Manager of the Love True Blog