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Modern-day slavery is commonly referred to as "human trafficking." There are more slaves today than ever before. This is something people hear all the time, but how often does it sink in?
According to The Polaris Project, there are more than 24 million slaves around the world. Chances are, it's going on in some way close to where you are now. It is the fastest growing crime, but it is also one that many people still don't know enough about.
Anyone could be a victim.
What doesn’t matter is your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, your job, or anything else. What does matter is that you are a human being. Yes, some people are more at risk than others. According to The Polaris Project, 75 percent are women and girls, and 25 percent are children. Immigrants, people in poverty, and runaway or homeless children are also at a higher risk. However, this doesn’t eliminate anyone.
Sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking (but definitely not the only one).
Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received calls of more than 22,000 cases of sex trafficking. One can only imagine how many cases are never reported. These victims are threatened, manipulated, and tortured. They are exposed to STDs and all types of abuse. They are owned, but not cared for. The only reason they are kept alive is to have sex with anyone willing to pay.
Labor trafficking is another common form, but one that people don’t think about as much.
Chances are, you own or use something that someone else was forced to make. This includes your clothes, coffee, makeup, or even candy bars. According to The Polaris Project, there are 136 goods from 74 countries that are made by forced or child labor.
Though it is often thought of as something that only happens in other countries, labor trafficking does occur in the US as well and includes people who are forced to work in homes, on farms, or in factories under horrible conditions. But it isn’t all hidden. It also goes on in restaurants, beauty services, and other areas you wouldn’t expect. Since 2007, there have been more than 5,000 calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report cases of labor trafficking.
North Carolina is a top-10 state for human trafficking.
The Charlotte area is the most significant problem area in the state. It is a big problem here mainly because of the major interstates, entertainment arenas, and the agriculture industry (learn more here). To bring it even closer to home for some people, a detective for the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s office said that pimps often look for teenage girls at Concord Mills (read the article here). Trafficking is a very real problem right where we live.
Human trafficking can end.
We can all pitch in to help end it. No act is too small to make a difference. Here are just a few ideas for starters.
- Be aware of the signs (and then raise more awareness). You can learn about the signs here. You can also learn a lot more about human trafficking and what to do about it.
- Find out how many slaves work for you. This website gives you your slavery footprint and then gives you tools to help lower that number. Their goal is simply to build a free world.
- Find out what products you use that are produced by forced or child labor, then stop buying these products. There are even big-name companies using forced labor to make their products. They need to know that it's not okay and they need to do better. Look at Fair Trade alternatives. Yes, they're more expensive. But isn't it worth it knowing that they were made by people who chose to work and are being treated and paid fairly? At least think about the fact that a ten-year-old child didn't make these products against his will.
- Join or start a club. Start a fundraiser. Volunteer at an organization like Lily Pad Haven or The A21 Campaign.
- Tell everyone you know about this injustice. Use your voice for the voiceless. Write about it. Sing about it. Use your art. Do everything necessary to make sure people are aware of this problem. Awareness is the key to ending human trafficking.
Of course, there are many more ways you can help fight human trafficking. But the important thing is that you know about it, and you don't forget about it. Do something about it so that every man, woman, and child can be rescued.