January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is a crime as well as a violation of human rights. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) has been reauthorized several times and is the foundational federal legislation. It defines trafficking as:
sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform
such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for
labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage,
debt bondage, or slavery
Although many people think primarily of sex trafficking when the issue of human trafficking is discussed, it’s important to know about labor trafficking too. The Office of Trafficking in Persons provides correctives to other myths about human trafficking. Polaris, one of the most well-known and reputable anti-trafficking organizations, responds to common misunderstandings as well. Polaris conducts a wide range of research about human trafficking and also coordinates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which serves victims and survivors of trafficking. Suspected cases can be reported to the confidential hotline 24/7 by phone (1-888-373-7888), text (Be Free: 233733), live chat via the website, or their online reporting form. The NHT publishes extensive data about their hotline calls, including listing the states with the highest number of cases reported to the hotline. PA is currently #10. It’s important to note that these are only the cases that are reported to the hotline, so it’s not necessarily a comprehensive number. The South Central Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Response Team, facilitated by the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, helps to build and coordinate local anti-human trafficking efforts.
The US organizes its response to human trafficking using a 3P paradigm, focusing on prosecution, protection, and prevention. Every year the federal government publishes the Trafficking in Persons report. Data is currently being collected for the 2019 report, which will likely be available in June. The TIP Report ranks countries around the world, including the United States, in a 3-tiered ranking based on their efforts to eradicate trafficking. Countries that do not meet minimum expectations can be sanctioned by losing non-humanitarian and non-trade related aid from the US. The 2018 Trafficking in Persons report includes a focus on community-level actions and on implementing a trauma-informed approach. The TIP Office also provides information about how you can help fight human trafficking.
Many different professionals might encounter a trafficking victim or a possible trafficking situation, including, of course, law enforcement officers and social service providers. The NHT has developed a wide range of educational materials, including general awareness materials as well as specialized training materials for different sectors (e.g. educators, health care professionals, etc.). The Irina Project works to educate journalists about appropriate ways to cover trafficking stories, particularly stories about sex trafficking cases. Truckers Against Trafficking trains truckers to recognize and report suspected cases of trafficking; they also have training materials for bus drivers. The Code is an initiative targeted at hospitality industry companies and their employees to recognize and respond to trafficking. HEAL works on multiple aspects of human trafficking from a public health perspective.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s coordinates #WearBlueDay on January 11 to help raise awareness about human trafficking. Learn how you can participate by visiting their webpage.
We all have a role to play in ending human trafficking. Educate yourself about the issue and decide how you can make an impact.
Written by Donna M. Bickford, Ph.D., Director, Women’s and Gender Resource Center
January 7, 2019