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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security explains that human trafficking, a modern form of slavery, is when a person “uses force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons showing that 79% of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation and 18% is for forced labor. The report also shows that though the majority of human trafficking victims are female, a person of any age, gender, race, or background can be a target.  

In 2020, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received more than 17,000 reports across all 50 U.S. Sates for possible child sex trafficking. It’s estimated that there are over 24.9 million human trafficking victims of all ages at any given time across the world. The UNODC report shows that both women and men can be human trafficking offenders, and while many have criminal backgrounds, just as many are seemingly “normal” business owners.  

Who is vulnerable to human trafficking? 

Polaris, a non-profit organization that works to combat human trafficking, states that the following people are the most vulnerable to trafficking: 

  • Have an unstable living situation 
  • Have a history of domestic violence 
  • Has a caregiver or family member who has a substance abuse issue 
  • Are runaways or involved in the juvenile justice or foster care system 
  • Are undocumented immigrants 
  • Are facing poverty or economic need 
  • Have a history of sexual abuse 
  • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol 

Human trafficking indicators:

The more people are aware of indicators of human trafficking, the more they can report suspicious activity and help victims. The UNODC has compiled a comprehensive guide of what they consider to be the most common indicators of human trafficking. For children specifically, here are some indicators to watch out for: 

  • They do not have access to their parents or guardians 
  • They aren’t allowed to go outside and play 
  • They don’t have any friends 
  • They are only given leftovers to eat 

Another great resource to learn indicators is with the Blue Campaign Human Trafficking Indicator Card. This small two-sided card can be printed out and carried with you as a quick guide on what to look for.  

Though the indicators listed between these resources can be helpful in identifying a human trafficking victim, it is important to know that some victims may not show any of these signs. These indicators should not be used to prove or disprove that human trafficking is taking place.  

If you suspect that someone is being trafficked or in danger, report it to proper channels so that an investigation can take place. If you are correct and the person is involved in a trafficking situation, you do not want to risk putting yourself in danger. 

What is the government doing to help combat human trafficking?

Over the last few decades, a multitude of bills, acts, laws, and task forces were designed to help combat human trafficking.  

The most important bill was the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 

The TVPA includes the first federal laws that were established to address human trafficking. This act focuses on 3 areas: protection of victims, prevention of trafficking, and prosecution of traffickers. The TVPA also made human trafficking a federal crime and helped create new government offices like the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking.  

An important part of the TVPA was the implementation of Continued Presence and the T visa, defined here by the FBI.  

“Continued Presence allows law enforcement officers to request temporary legal status in the United States for a foreign national whose presence is necessary for the continued success of a human trafficking investigation. The T visa allows foreign victims of human trafficking to become temporary U.S. residents and apply for permanent residency after three years.”  

This TVPA has been reauthorized and updated through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts (TVPRA) of 2003200520082013, and 2017. 

Another noteworthy bill is the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) of 2015. This act more specifically focuses on what penalties are in place for convicted human traffickers, and that they must pay their victims restitution. Currently in the U.S. 15 federal government agencies have programs and task forces in place to help combat human trafficking! 

What can you do to help?

Even though human trafficking is a large worldwide issue, there are ways you can help. 

As previously stated, start by educating yourself and others on the indicators of human trafficking. With this information you can then spot and report what you’ve encountered to law enforcement officials. If you or someone you know seems to be at risk, make a report through the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.  

The Blue Campaign is another great way to make a difference. Participate annually on January 11th in #WearBlueDay by wearing blue and using the hashtag on social media to spread awareness about human trafficking. Blue is an internationally recognized color for human trafficking awareness. 

To help protect children from becoming a victim of human trafficking, download the Q5id Guardian app to have at your disposal if your child or a child in your neighborhood disappears. As a Guardian+ subscriber you can issue an alert the second you think your child may have been taken and the surrounding community will jump into action to find them before it’s too late. As a Guardian volunteer you will be notified about any missing children in the immediate area; you could help find and protect someone else’s child from human trafficking! 

More information and resources: 

Human Trafficking Data 2021 by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Continued Presence and T visa quick facts. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) hotline 1-800-THE-LOST. Their CyberTipline is specifically designed for reports related to child sex trafficking and exploitation.  

FBI Victim Services 

National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888. This hotline is operated by Polaris. They help aid and support to human trafficking survivors by providing resources, information and they also collect and present data all regarding human trafficking. 

Myths and misconceptions 

The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 

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