How Can You Make a Difference?
By Ana Marie Bohr, WAR, Int’l Staff Writer
January 11, 2018
Human trafficking is going on all around us. It could be happening in your very own neighborhood, down the street, or even in the local grocery store parking lot. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Human trafficking is estimated to be the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. This is not a topic we can casually brush aside or turn a blind eye to.
What is Human Trafficking, Anyway?
The U.S. State Department defines human trafficking as “the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex purposes is considered a crime even if force, fraud, or coercion is not involved. In short, human trafficking is simply modern-day slavery.
Many people think this is something that just happens overseas, or that human trafficking in the U.S. takes place only in the big cities and poor communities. Others become fearful and think it happens as seen in the movies, and only to teenage girls and young women. But the truth is that behind closed doors, things are not always what they seem to be.
Human trafficking in the U.S. happens in wealthy suburbs, middle-class towns, and rural communities, to males and females of various ages. Some are preyed upon by strangers who hang out in public places such as malls, scouting out young men and women who appear to be vulnerable. Often, however, victims are exploited by someone they know and truly trust: family members, boyfriends, classmates, or even employers.
Trafficking victims can be as young as 12 years old, or even younger. But whether adults or children, recovering victims may feel defeated and even hopeless. Most often, they need all the help and support they can get emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.
How Can I Make a Difference?
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This is the perfect opportunity to take a step of action and make a change in your community!
You may be wondering how it’s possible to make a difference in an issue that is so widespread, destructive, and seemingly hopeless. Here are some simple ways you can get involved:
- Get educated and learn the indicators of human trafficking so you can identify a potential trafficking victim. Good resources include public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Homeland Security.
- Be well informed. Set up a web alert to receive current human trafficking news.
- If you suspect a trafficking situation, report your suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
- Host an awareness event to watch and discuss films about human trafficking.
- Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
- Be a conscientious and informed consumer. Remember that human trafficking includes labor trafficking as well. Be aware of who picked your tomatoes or made your clothing. Consider buying Fair Trade items!
- Help support an organization providing services to trafficking victims by donating your time, talents, or money.
- Work with a local community group or religious congregation to spread awareness on human trafficking.
- Check out local community organizations involved in preventative action. Get involved in a mentoring program or street outreach.
Getting Involved With Women At Risk, International
No matter where in the U.S. you live, Women At Risk, International (WAR, Int’l) offers a variety of opportunities for you to become educated and help in pursuing our mission to end slavery.
- Host a Party or Event
WAR, Int’l carries thousands of items crafted by trafficking survivors and other at-risk individuals in our partnering programs. Showing and selling these items is a simple, yet very effective, way to support the women and men who create them. Just $300 in product sales is enough to support an individual in a safehouse for an entire month! Click here for more information on hosting a “party with a purpose” at your home, your church, a local craft fair, or almost any venue you choose!
- Organize or Attend a Civilian First Responder (CFR) Training
We’ve conducted these anti-trafficking training sessions in numerous cities across the U.S. In one eight-hour session, we teach you how to recognize the signs of trafficking in your community, help you understand healthy ways to respond to crisis situations, and equip you to share this information with others in your circle! Visit our website for more information!
We have volunteers all over the country who help us by staffing product tables at speaking events and conferences. If you live in West Michigan, we also offer volunteer opportunities at our headquarters. Check out our opportunities here, or email us for more information! The work of our hands-on volunteers saves us over a hundred thousand dollars each year, enabling us to use more funds to aid trafficking victims and continue our trafficking awareness and prevention programs!
- “Like” and Share our things on Social Media
Social media is an amazing platform for reaching and impacting people across the globe! It’s a great way to help spread human trafficking awareness as well! By liking and sharing our things on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you not only spread the word to others but also stay up to date with issues, current stories, and upcoming events. This is a great way to stay connected locally and globally!
How will you make a difference this month? Whether you get involved with WAR, Int’l or another anti-trafficking organization, we are excited to have you alongside us in the fight to end modern-day slavery!
Resources to check out: