The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, with women and girls making up 71% of that number. In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11, 2019, read on to learn about the human trafficking crisis, organizations working to end the practice, and what you can do to support the cause.
Trafficking in the U.S.
According the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” According to the U.S. State Department, between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that between December 2007 and June 2018, it has received 195,215 calls, emails, and webform submissions on 45,308 cases concerning 51,482 victims.
Five organizations focused on awareness and eradication
The scope of the crisis is overwhelming, but there are plenty of organizations working tirelessly to end human trafficking by educating communities and empowering survivors. Here are five nonprofits working to put an end to human trafficking through their varied efforts and programs:
- Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest international human rights organization. It works with local partners to help victims escape slavery, provide resources to help survivors reclaim their lives, and educate communities to address the root causes of slavery, such as poverty, social inequity, and lack of education.
- Polaris Project is a Washington, D.C.-based organization fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the U.S. It supports stronger legislation, uses data to disrupt trafficking networks, and implements programs, trainings, and resources for survivors. It also operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
- Another organization based in Washington, D.C. is Free the Slaves, working to educate businesses, faith communities, governments, international institutions, and the public on what they can do to support the cause. Since 2000, the organization has freed 13,000 modern slaves.
- California-based AnnieCannons works to train trafficking survivors to become software professionals so that they can support themselves and their families.
- Urban Light is one of relatively few organizations that specifically helps male victims of human trafficking. Based in Thailand, it has helped 5,000 young men since 2010. With the support of international partners, the organization focuses on health, employment, housing, education, harm reduction, prevention, outreach, and legal aid.
Work for the cause
If ending human trafficking is a cause you feel passionate about, consider applying for a job at one of the organizations listed above. Here are some tips that will help you land the job:
- Since English is often not the first language of trafficking victims, being bi- or multi-lingual can be essential for communication. This is particularly important if you work for a hotline or are a case manager working directly with victims. If you're not bilingual, start learning a new language using an app like Duolingo or take a Coursera class.
- If you have either studied social work or worked in the social work field, you may have the training to work directly with survivors or design effective programs for survivors and vulnerable communities. If you’re interested in studying social work, research graduate programs, speak to admissions officers, and connect with alumni to see if this is the right path for you.
- A background in psychology or counseling can make you a standout applicant. Whether you have studied psychology and have earned more specialized degrees, or have worked in a related field, you may be equipped to offer personalized support to survivors. If you don't have the experience, start off by volunteering at a hotline or counseling center to see where you strengths lie. Take a psychology class to see if further study is for you or, if you’re ready to consider graduate programs, research which ones are most aligned with your goals.
- If you have emergency response training, you can provide much needed services to trafficking victims being removed from harmful situations. If you also have a social work or counseling background, you can support work to help survivors transition to post-trafficking life. If you think you may be interested in this type of role, but don't have the experience, consider taking a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program to gain the training you need to evaluate and assess victims.
Support the work
Here are other ways you can support anti-trafficking efforts:
- Donate to an organization working to end human trafficking.
- Share information about human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts on your social media using the hashtag #HumanTraffickingAwareness.
- Educate yourself on how to identify trafficking victims and who to contact for help.
- Find specific events planned for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day or anti-trafficking efforts in your area by using directories like Eventbrite or Meetup.
- Buy from companies that have transparent and non-exploitive labor policies.
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