“Nothing will happen just because we are aware but nothing will ever happen until we are aware.”
-Gary Haugen, Founder, and CEO of International Justice Mission
Today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day, a day dedicated by the End It Coalition to raise awareness of the tragedy that is human trafficking. For many people, this might be your first exposure to ht outside of the movie Taken. This day might mean nothing more to you than a day on which celebrities draw red x’s on their hands and talk about justice, or you may know enough to care about the issue but you don’t really understand it and it feels so big that you don’t think you can really have an impact fighting it.
If that just described you, keep reading because human trafficking is an issue that has touched everyone and it will take all of us do to anything to stop it.
So what is ht?
Human trafficking is defined by the UN as the recruitment, harboring, transfer, or receipt of persons by the means of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.
To put it in more plain language:
Most estimates say that there are about 45 million slaves currently. Ht is the second largest criminal industry after drug trafficking and will likely move to first place. It touches every industry and everyone has bought something made by a slave. Human trafficking is an overwhelming problem so it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it but that’s not true.
What can you do about ht?
Last year, I wrote a blog post about 5 Ways to Fight Human Trafficking Today but today I want to focus on two of them.
Advocate for victims and survivors
Talk about human trafficking in all of your spheres of influence, warn people in your life about how to stay safe and how to recognize traffic so they can report it. Call and write your government representatives to let them know about your support for anti-trafficking legislation and to push for better justice for survivors. Talk to companies about transparency and ethical practices in supply chains and vote with your dollar for companies that fight to provide dignified employment rather than profiting off of trafficking.
Know the signs and report them
The Polaris Project has a lot more information about how to recognize human trafficking than I can include in this post but there are two major signs that I will talk about.
An obvious power imbalance within a pair or a group of people: if one person makes all the decisions or members of a group are do not speak for themselves, control their own money and identification documents or are not free to come and go as they please this is a huge indicator of trafficking.
Signs of mental and/or physical abuse including suspicious injuries, anxiety and depression, and substance abuse. Abuse is always wrong and if you suspect someone is experiencing abuse always seek to get help for them but it can also be a sign of a bigger issue especially if it is paired with other indicators of trafficking.
Human trafficking is a massive and overwhelming problem but it’s not impossible to fight it. We can all do something and it will take all of us to make a difference. As William Wilberforce said, you can choose to look away but you can never again say you didn’t know.