A Needed and Bold Question in Response to Human Trafficking

Jun 25, 2019

The realities of human trafficking are staggering. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked (labor, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude) into the U.S. each year. And in Cook County, law enforcement officials arrest more sex traffickers than anywhere else in the country. If you want to do something to stop this modern-day slavery, you’re not alone. Our friends at STOP-IT, The Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking program, are often asked that haunting question: “What can I do?” This guest blog by STOP-IT’s Jenn Harvey offers practical steps you can take to join the fight against human trafficking.

Those who fight human trafficking for a living field a recurring question: “What can I do to fight this issue?” This is a needed and bold question.

It is needed because there are aspects of our society that propel and perpetuate trafficking. And bold because it can be scary to come face-to-face with the ways in which our everyday lives cause us to be complicit.

Here are just some steps we can all take to be part of positive, needed change:

Know and Share the Truth

There are many myths and misconceptions about trafficking, so the first step is helping ourselves and one another learn the truth.

  • Check out this article by The Polaris Project. After analyzing over 32,000 cases of trafficking, they identified 25 types of human trafficking in the United States and compiled this data into “The Typology of Modern Slavery.” It is a great place to start!
  • After learning about the types of trafficking that exist, familiarize yourself with the signs and how to spot potential exploitation here.
  • Test your knowledge with Polaris’s quiz, specifically about human trafficking and the use of social media at their website here.
  • Attend a training. There are several anti-trafficking organizations in the Chicagoland area that provide outreach and training to our community members. To request a human trafficking training from STOP-IT, check out our website and send your request in here.
  • Join us at the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force 9th Annual Conference this August to hear from experts in the anti-trafficking field about best practices and current trends. Find more details about the conference and registration here

Give Your Time and Talents

Giving of our time, creativity, talents, and resources is a helpful way to partner with those already providing direct services to survivors of trafficking.

  • Find information about how you can volunteer with a local anti-trafficking agency through the National Human Trafficking Hotline Referral Directory here. Under the “Opportunities and Training” tab, simply click on “Volunteer Opportunities” and set the search for your geographic area.
  • If you live in the Chicagoland area, learn more about STOP-IT’s volunteering opportunities here. We are so grateful for all the volunteers who dedicate their time to assist with our hotline and drop-in center.
  • If prevention work is on your heart, why not look into mentoring opportunities? Many trafficked people have histories of childhood adversity and trauma. When people invest in the lives of youth, they become less vulnerable to exploitation. Search for mentoring opportunities in your community at this website.  

Be an Informed Consumer

Unfortunately, agricultural work and factories are common venues for forced labor. According to Polaris, “Workers in food processing, clothing, and shoe manufacturing factories are especially vulnerable to labor abuse and trafficking. Polaris-operated hotlines have also documented labor trafficking and exploitation cases in a wide range of other manufacturing facilities, including factories producing electronic devices and vehicles.” Investing our resources in fair labor and fair trade products can be another great place to start!

  • In order to find out how much of our daily use of work, goods and shopping incorporates forced labor, the Slavery Footprint Survey is a helpful tool. Access it here.
  • After taking the survey, here are some helpful resources to jumpstart your learning about fair trade items and companies:
  • With Better World Shopper, you can search the best and worst companies when it comes to environmental and social responsibility based on their database of over 2,000 companies. Check out their work here.
  • Stay up-to-date with fair trade news and access fair trade shopping guides and products with Fair Trade Certified here
  • For a quick reference of stores offering fair trade home goods, bath and body products, electronics, food and coffee, find a certified list at End Slavery Now.
  • In addition to avoiding placing our financial resources in the wrong hands, donating items and resources to anti-trafficking agencies has a direct impact on the participants receiving services. If you’re interested in donating to the STOP-IT program, find an Amazon Wish List of needed items for our clients and drop-in center here.

Reframe Your Language

Our words hold power. While it seems like a small step, reframing our language about individuals who have experienced trafficking and those who perpetuate this crime can cause a ripple effect on those around us.

This means that we may be the ones at the party who don’t laugh at the joke that makes light of sexual assault. It means that we may be more mindful and skip the song that glorifies and normalizes pimp culture and ownership of others. It means that we refrain from wondering what “choices” survivors of trafficking made and put our focus on the crime committed against them.

It may mean that we avoid writing people off with labels like “homeless,” “drug addict,” “illegal,” or “prostitute.” These labels leave little room for the possibility that someone may actually be a survivor of trafficking. These words put people on a trajectory to judgement and punitive responses, rather than services and aid.

Lastly, it means that we are careful not to categorize our desire to help as “rescuing.” Human trafficking is a complex crime that more often than not involves psychological tactics of power and control, rather than just confining an individual. It is often perpetrated by intimate partners, family members, or individuals that form a relationship with the survivor. Use of the word “rescue” sums up the solution to exploitation as simply stepping in and taking individuals away from the situation. It puts individuals in the box of helpless victim indebted to the rescuer. To learn more about the impact of this word on survivors and anti-trafficking efforts, read a helpful blog here.

Help Wisely

Gaining knowledge about trafficking and how to identify potential exploitation will make you want to offer help whenever you recognize red flags. In these moments, safety is of utmost importance – for you and for the potential survivor. Intervening, bringing someone to your home or your place of employment, or providing your personal information can lead to danger for you and risky consequences for the individual.

Rather, take your concern to agencies who have already set up safety parameters for those reporting information and those requesting assistance.

Pass suspicious activity or tips along to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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