Tools for Awareness, Prevention, and Empowerment
Please note: While this blog is a proactive call-to-action and does not give disturbing details, be advised that the subject matter may not be suitable for everyone.
In 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Until then, many Americans were unaware of its prevalence in society. However, the first paragraph in the Presidential Proclamation makes it clear:
“Over a century and a half after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, millions remain in bondage -- children forced to take part in armed conflict or sold to brothels by their destitute families, men and women who toil for little or no pay, who are threatened and beaten if they try to escape. Slavery tears at our social fabric, fuels violence and organized crime, and debases our common humanity. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we renew our commitment to ending this scourge in all its forms.”
By 2019, awareness grew through social media sharing. Important discussions formed around news events. First-hand accounts brought reality closer to those who had once turned away. Urgency and empathy were fueled. And from this, we sought ways in which we could help.
2018 Victory for Survivors
While disparaging memes about "Virtue Signalling" and "Social Media Outrage" abound, thankfully many people don’t let that stop them. Here are some of the ways strangers have banded together, often through social media, to help survivors get justice. And in turn, they’ve given many victims and survivors hope.
The most recent and celebrated case is that of Cyntoia Brown.
As many of you know, Cyntoia Brown was preyed upon as a child and at age 16, she shot a man who had repeatedly “bought” and abused her.
Despite her harrowing life, this child was tried as an adult — something that deserves scrutiny on its own. She was found guilty of murder, when in most circumstances — especially given her age — one might consider this an act of self-defense and a child’s desperate means of escape.
However, after spending half of her life in prison, Cyntoia was finally granted clemency. Over half a million people signed petitions for her release. I was one of them. And while we cannot erase what she has been through, we showed Ms. Brown, and other victims, that we believe and support them.
Awareness has grown. But there is still so much we can do to prevent society’s most vulnerable people from being exploited and abused. Do you know how to recognize signs of trafficking?
Recognizing Signs of Human Trafficking
In the United States, the average age of induction into commercial sex trafficking is 13 years old. These exploited children are predominantly runaways.
In addition to sex trafficking victims, migrants and others are sometimes trafficked for labor.
Would you recognize victims of trafficking if you saw them?
The hospital Cedar Sinai shares a list of signs to look for:
Certain injuries are telltale signals of trafficking. Jaw and neck injuries, cigarette burns, and multiple injuries in various stages of healing may indicate abuse.
Implanted microchips. Healthcare workers are trained to recognize small stitches or tiny, rice-grain-sized scars.
Clothes that are not appropriate for the weather or time of day may indicate the person is in trouble.
Having someone else speak for them. People being trafficked might be accompanied by another person who talks for them or gives an inconsistent story.
Other signs include avoiding eye contact, appearing fearful, not knowing what day or time it is, or not knowing what city they’re in.
What to do if you see a potential victim of trafficking
If you encounter someone who you think might be a victim of trafficking, you can:
Ask questions. If someone is working and exhibits the signs mentioned above, ask them when they last had a day off or a break. Labor trafficking happens in many industries, including factory work, construction, agriculture, beauty/hospitality industries, and domestic service.
Report suspected trafficking. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text at 233733.
If they’re a minor, act immediately. Report the abuse to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In Los Angeles, if you suspect a child is being trafficked, call the Department of Children and Family Services at 800-540-4000.
Aside from the tools above, here’s another way to support survivors of human trafficking.
Buy clothing that helps, not hurts.
Today, a lot of fashion is made in sweatshops — which uses slave labor.
But at R.O.S.E., our clothes are ethically made, plus, we donate 15% of purchases to humanitarian causes.
Our LOVE > FEAR line benefits Reclaim13.org, an organization dedicated to preventing sex trafficking and helping survivors.
Shop the Love > Fear collection.
A child has the right to be a child.
Reclaim13 seeks to reclaim that right for children by helping them gain a sense of their own worth. This ultimately helps them avoid the lures of abusers.
In addition, Reclaim13 operates Cherish House, a home for girls and young women age 10-21 who are recovering from sex trafficking. At Cherish House, children can heal, play, complete their education, and reclaim the path of freedom and hope.
Thank you for reading and sharing this vital information. Together we can bring attention to Human Trafficking, and make strides to end it. Let’s keep the momentum going so less people fall prey to this form of modern day slavery.