January has been named National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Wednesday, Jan. 11, was designated “Wear Blue Day” by the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, which aims to combat human trafficking within the U.S.
However, not many people know exactly what qualifies as human trafficking or how prevalent it still is around the world.
“Human trafficking and even sex trafficking isn’t just a white girl abducted for sex and chained to a radiator,” Elizabethtown College Professor of Social Work Dr. Susan Mapp said. “That does happen, but it’s only a small proportion.”
The two main types of human trafficking focused on labor and sex. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, there are some criteria an act needs to meet to be considered human trafficking.
First, it includes an “act” that can be anything from trying to recruit people for illegal labor or sex to transporting slaves.
In cases other than the sex trafficking of minors, traffickers also need a “means,” or a way, to carry out the act. These include force, fraud and coercion.
Finally, there needs to be a “purpose,” or reason, for the trafficking. Often the reasons are to exploit victims (be it for sexual purposes like prostitution or labor purposes like having inexpensive employees) and to make money while doing so.
Signs of labor trafficking include working unusual, irregular or excessively long hours, owing a large debt and never being able to pay it off or having high security measures at one’s workplace, including opaque or boarded up windows and security cameras.
Showing physical signs of neglect or sexual abuse, acting anxious when someone brings up law enforcement and not being allowed to speak for oneself are all signs of sex trafficking.
According to the Polaris Project, a national organization that aims to prevent and combat human trafficking, an estimated 4.5 million people worldwide are currently involved in forced sexual exploitation.
The organization also reports that in 2016, one in six runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was a sex trafficking victim.
“Even though sex trafficking receives more media attention, more people are trafficked for labor than sex,” Mapp said.
The Polaris Project reports that 14.2 million people worldwide are involved in forced labor, from agriculture to construction. In addition, 31 percent of Spanish-speaking undocumented migrant workers in the San Diego area experienced labor trafficking in 2012.
“The work itself is not illegal, but how and why [trafficking victims] get there is,” Mapp said.
Mapp gave a talk at the Bowers Writers House titled “A National Horror: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking,” which focused on the sex trafficking of children across the United States.
Mapp’s event was the Bowers Writers House’s first event of the semester and took place Monday, Jan. 22.
For more on Mapp’s event, see the article on page 6.
“Kids may not realize that the person offering them a bike in exchange for six months of work could be exploiting them,” Mapp said.
Sophomore Brandon Huey said he realizes that human trafficking is an issue and sees value in designating a month to bring awareness to it.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t realize that there are still slaves in the world,” he said. “We can’t fix a problem if no one is aware the problem exists.”
Mapp said that, like human trafficking itself, the best ways to prevent human trafficking are often not what people think. Mapp also suggested combatting labor trafficking by being a smart consumer. Over 130 goods from 74 countries have been identified by the U.S. Department of Labor as being made with forced and/or child labor.
Mapp suggested volunteering with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, working as a tutor in a school or becoming a foster parent could all help in the prevention of human trafficking.
According to Mapp, while these actions don’t scream “human trafficking,” they can make more of a difference than trying to do something big like start an organization.
“Putting a frame around your profile picture may raise awareness, but helping an individual potential victim can do much more,” Mapp said. “You have to know what you’re doing and make sure it does something,”
For more information on human trafficking prevention, please visit https://polarisproject.org.