Exactly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery – now sometimes called human trafficking – persists. It is one of the largest and fastest-growing criminal practices in the world, generating billions for perpetrators who use fear, manipulation and money to lure and enslave the most vulnerable. It is driven by high demand, enormous profit and low risk of punishment.
In America, sex trafficking is one of the most common forms of human trafficking. Women and girls are forced or coerced into the commercial sex industry, often through sexual abuse, imprisonment, rape, starvation, kidnapping, and even torture. They are recruited to work for brothels, strip clubs, escort services, and street prostitution. Runaway and homeless children, who are often as young as twelve years old, are targeted by pimps who manipulate and control them, both psychologically and physically. Victims rarely seek help and fear imprisonment and retaliation by their trafficker. Many do not even realize they are victims with rights.
What is the community’s responsibility to these victims? There are three practical actions you can take to respond to the call of exploited women and trafficked girls.
First, join the abolition movement. Let your local Congressional representatives know that you care about women and seek safety for trafficking victims. Ask them to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which increases Federal penalties for traffickers and authorizes funding for victim services, legal services, and law enforcement task forces.
Second, help raise awareness. Educate yourself and help educate social service, health care, and criminal justice professionals on human trafficking and the needs and risks of those victimized by the commercial sex industry.
Third, support local agencies whose mission is to rescue and restore the victims.
Human slavery exists. In fact, it is growing in our great nation, even though we supposedly abolished it 150 years ago. We have a moral responsibility to put a stop to this crime and give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak and freedom to the enslaved.
Learn more at Katie Pedigo’s Huffington Post article: Act to End Human Trafficking.