It seems every time we turn on the TV we are reminded that human trafficking and slavery still happens. We see it in dramatic plot lines: the young girl who is kidnapped and locked in a basement; the domestic worker who desperately pleads the first stranger he sees to rescue him. But as these images circulate, our impression of human trafficking becomes distorted. While these extreme scenarios do happen, they don’t reflect the most common forms of human trafficking.
With January’s designation as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we’re dedicated to increasing awareness about trafficking and what you can do to combat it with the help of STOP-IT, a program of The Salvation Army Family & Community Services.
So what is Human Trafficking?
In short, it’s modern day slavery involving the use of force, fraud, threats or coercion to obtain labor or sex acts.
And it happens all over the world, including here in the US; here in the Midwest. Millions of men, women and children are trafficked throughout the world.
STOP-IT works toward the elimination of human trafficking by educating the public, collaborating with service providers, and working directly with trafficked persons. Their specially trained team builds relationships with trafficking victims through outreach, ongoing case management and support, and service referrals; no matter the person’s age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Now, during the month dedicated to human trafficking prevention, we all should be talking about trafficking: what it is, how individuals are recruited, and how we can prevent it. One of the best weapons against human trafficking is recognizing the signs.
Here are five signs that a person may be a victim of human trafficking:
- The person is under age 18 and involved in the commercial sex industry.
- The person doesn’t control his/her own money or identification.
- The person wears new clothes, gets hair or nails done, and/or has expensive items but has no financial means to afford these things.
- The person uses language from “the life” such as referring to a boyfriend as “Daddy.”
- The person lives with co-workers and/or “employer”.
If you suspect a human trafficking situation within Cook County or the 9 collar counties* Please call the STOP-IT 24-hour hotline: 877.606.3158.
A STOP-IT outreach worker can provide further assistance for you and the victim. *The STOP-IT service area includes Cook, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will Counties. For reports outside of this area, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.3737.888.
If you intend to approach a potential victim, please make sure you:
- Talk with the person in a safe environment.
- Obtain only the information you need in order to get additional help. Do not conduct an in-depth interview.
- Do not make promises – like “everything will be OK” – or attempt to rescue the person. Instead, reach out to STOP-IT or law enforcement for help.
For more information on human trafficking and how you can combat it this month and beyond, keep an eye on our social media. Also, later this month, stay tuned for a blog focusing on how our community can work to prevent human trafficking.