There are roughly 46 million people being trafficked to date, and that estimation continues to grow as more and more organizations focus on ending the issue of modern-day slavery. Trafficking is all around us, and though many of us like to think that it doesn’t happen in our own communities, it does. However, trafficking is a multifaceted issue, and it can be hard to know what to do or how to react when we know someone who is being trafficked.
We have this vision in our minds that all trafficking survivors are taken from one place to another, kept in locked and barred rooms and aren’t able to socialize with anyone. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. Human trafficking is defined by the Department of Homeland Security as a “form of modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of commercial sex act.” That means that anyone who is forced to engage in a commercial sexual act, whether that be through lying, violence, threats, fraud, etc. is being trafficked.
People are often trafficked by their partners or family members, and as heartbreaking as that is, it also means that we need to not limit ourselves by what we believe trafficking to be. In fact, according to Polaris, interactions with family and friends are the #1 way that trafficking survivors get help. When you become aware that someone you know is being trafficked, use these 6 things to help you navigate the situation.
1.) Don’t patronize
The media today promotes a common narrative that trafficking survivors are helpless victims who need someone to save them, but that often couldn’t be further from the truth. Certainly, each survivor’s story is different, but the idea that movies like Taken have given many people about what trafficking is and what it looks like has marginalized many survivors who suffer from a much more common narrative. Be mindful about how you view the survivor, and if you think that you have the power to save them from their problems, take a step back and examine the source of that feeling. For the most part, survivors of trafficking have grit and power that few of us can even fathom. Recognize them for the strength that they have, and don’t underestimate their ability to do what’s challenging.
2.) If the survivor needs help, contact the Trafficking Hotline
Call: 1 (888) 373-7888
Text: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To find resources in the area, or just general information, this is a great first step. Be mindful, however, that the survivor may not be able to use their phone. If the two of you have talked about it and the survivor wants resources, y