The holidays are over, our lives are getting back to normal routines, and everyone is getting ready for winter to set in. However, January is a very important month, it’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Human trafficking is modern day slavery and is as relevant as ever in our nation. Take some time this month to learn more about human trafficking. We appreciate everyone that helps us in sharing our mission to stop trafficking before it starts.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion-dollar industry; business is booming. It’s estimated that approximately 40.3 million people are being trafficked at this moment. This is why prevention education is so critical to our communities: if we can stop trafficking before it starts, we will be able to change so many lives and ultimately make our community a safer place.
One thing we want to stop is the influx of false information, and one thing that is greatly misidentified is the actual signs of the crime. What does human trafficking look like? If you believe what social media is telling you, it’s zip ties on windshield wipers, plastic bags tied to car doors, and, most importantly, it’s white vans in grocery store parking lots. Are there any truths to these social media posts?
The answer is simple. No.
Law enforcement officers often have to send out their own public service announcements or speak to the media in order to let people know these stories are just hoaxes. The only thing that these posts are good for is to keep people alert and aware of their surroundings, which is very important as there could be other dangers lurking around. The negative side of these posts is that they spread lies and fear about what human trafficking actually looks like. If you see a post like this, ask yourself, “Why would someone post this and not alert law enforcement first?”
Traffickers can look like anyone. They could be your mailman, your friend, your significant other, or your neighbor. They also could be any age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. This makes it difficult to identify a potential trafficker.
Who are their prime targets? Our youth, you, or anyone. Traffickers aim to fill a need. Traffickers want their victims to fall in love with them and to solely rely on them. They build a relationship with their victims, in order to gain control. Which is why identifying human trafficking is also tricky.
Below are some signs to look out for in potential human trafficking cases. (These are not ALL the signs, just a few to look out for.)
Age inappropriate relationships
Influx in cash
Signs of physical abuse
Not having identification papers
Not speaking for themselves
Avoiding eye contact.
We are a community. It is so important to look out for each other and to stop spreading misinformation about human trafficking. If you do see something you think may be human trafficking, please contact the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733. If you want to bring prevention education to your community or a neighboring community, please call us at 402-521-3080 or visit https://www.setmefreeproject.net/request-an-educator.
With your help, we can stop trafficking before it starts.