It’s the problem that lurks in the shadows of our cities and reaches across the globe, but one that is seldom talked about. A form of modern day slavery, human trafficking is the most prominent crime against humanity of our time - and one of the most profitable industries in the world, bringing captors an estimated $32 billion in profits each year. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are currently more than 20 million women, men, and children being held capitative in the world today, and the conversation for change is well overdue.
Human trafficking is simply defined as the trade of human beings, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Just in our home state (Tennessee), 94 children are trafficked through the state each month, and inside the United States the average age of a teen entering the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old. Most everyone can agree that this is an issue that needs to be demolished around the world. The great news is that there is hope. There are incredible organizations that have sprout up in response to this crime; organizations like Not for Sale, 3Strands Global, and the International Justice Mission are working to rescue and empower survivors, while mobilizing society to fight back.
Operation Underground Railroad is a unique organization that gathers the world's experts in extraction operations (former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives) and in anti-child trafficking efforts to lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts around the globe. No matter which organization you find yourself supporting, most all of them focus on rescuing, serving survivors, and asking the rest of us to be active voices. Not everyone can lead rescue operations, but two things that anyone can do is speak up, and speak out.
One of the best things you can do to help combat human trafficking is knowing the signs. Signs of physical abuse and abnormal behavior are often red flags of human trafficking; click here for a comprehensive list of common indicators to be on the lookout for. Of course, if you know of or suspect trafficking taking place, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
Tapping into your inner advocate will help others learn about human trafficking and can change the conversation in your community. YOU have a powerful voice that can make waves.
- Share the story with your friends, family, and coworkers and create a community group that promote advocacy and awareness.
- Reach out to your local politicians and lobby for them to make fighting trafficking in their communities a priority. Recently, the advocacy group S.T.O.P., founded by students and professors at Mercer University, lobbied their representatives to pass SB 364 making law for all massage parlors to operate under legitimate licensing.
In addition to donating your time, money, and advocacy, another way to support the fight against human trafficking is through your purchases. We were thrilled to partner with social enterprises like Branded Collective and Eye Heart World and carry pieces from their line (see the copper cuff from Branded Collective that is hand stamped by survivors here, and the tote from Eye Heart World that funds aftercare services here). Your dollar has power, and using it to purchase your every day accessories and necessities that help further worthy initiatives can make a big difference.
All in all, fighting this heinous crime against humanity is up to all of us; know the signs, donate your time and money, make a statement with your dollar, and use your voice to spark change. As Margaret Mead once said, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has".