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January 11, 2017

Thinking about Human Trafficking Awareness Day

On January 4, 2010 President Obama issued a proclamation naming January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This followed a 2007 Senate resolution naming January 11th as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Despite efforts to combat trafficking across the globe, this heinous crime continues to be wildly lucrative and grow at an alarming rate. Human Trafficking Awareness Day was implemented to raise awareness among Americans that human trafficking does not just happen in other countries, but in states and communities across the United States – a fact some still struggle to recognize.

Between January 2008 and June 2010, the FBI investigated 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking in the United States. If that’s not enough to convince people that trafficking happens here at home, then know that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, a resource that anyone can call to submit a tip about potential incidents of trafficking, received 20,424 calls and had 5,748 cases of trafficking reported in 2016 alone. While some might see these numbers as low, trafficking by nature is a hidden crime that usually goes unnoticed, these numbers simply represent those cases that have been identified, but say nothing about the countless victims suffering out of sight.

Since Congress first passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 the United States has continued to build a better system of laws to combat trafficking. Policies now address everything from victim protection to ensuring products brought into the United States are not made with forced or child labor. These policies are effective weapons against modern slavery, but there is still more that can be done, especially here at home.

This Human Trafficking Awareness Day, think about the role you can play:

Discover your slavery footprint: Modern day slavery earns about $150 billion in profits globally each year. Laws like Section 307 of the Tariff Act, which bans the import of goods made with slave labor into the United States, and industry coalitions are improving standards and cleaning up supply chains. This awareness day, do your part and think about your slavery footprint. Go to Knowthechain.org and learn what the companies you support are doing to decrease and eradicate use of forced labor in their supply chains. By being informed consumers we can raise the risk to traffickers and those who utilize forced labor, while simultaneously reducing the profitability of this criminal enterprise. 

Know the signs human trafficking. One of the most effective ways to combat trafficking is by educating people to recognize the signs of trafficking and showing them how to report potential incidents. Anti-trafficking organizations employ eyes and ears on the ground, looking to teachers, flight attendants, and truck drivers, to name a few. You can join these groups by visiting the National Human Trafficking Hotline website where you can learn the signs of trafficking, gain information on the types of trafficking, and become familiar with the hotline.

The popular myth is that the United States abolished slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment over 150 years ago. However, we know that slavery still exists across the globe and here at home. This year, let’s not only commit to changing that fact, but to changing ourselves. This year let’s change our perspective and acknowledge the human rights violation taking place in communities across our country. This year let’s tell lawmakers to improve systems combating trafficking and enforce laws and regulations preventing goods made with forced labor from finding their way into our homes. This year let’s take charge of the fight against trafficking, let’s educate ourselves and take initiative. This year let’s bring our attention to the realities of modern slavery.