Awareness as the First Step
Through Dressember 2017 and Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January 2018, Dressember Foundation generated over 2 million dollars with generous contributions from over 31,000 donors! Additionally, now there are communities worldwide who who are more educated, informed, and equipped to speak on the topic of human trafficking. Maybe you made your own contribution by holding up a sign, setting up a booth, wearing a dress, calling your representatives, or holding an event.
But how do these awareness efforts lead to the end of human trafficking?
Awareness leads to the end of human trafficking for many reasons. One key benefit of awareness is how it helps professionals who might encounter victims better understand how to help them. Awareness leads to the end of human trafficking because it helps victims recognize their situation and find rescue. Awareness leads to the end of human trafficking because it eliminates misconceptions about human trafficking that hinder efforts taken to stop it. Awareness leads to the end of human trafficking because it compels the general public to take action.
A key leader of the movement to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, William Wilberforce, once said:
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
For many anti-trafficking advocates, this is true. I remember the first story I heard about human trafficking. It was about a young girl in Cambodia who had parents that sold her to a man for quick money. After hearing her story, I knew I would never get the picture of her innocent face out of my mind. That was the moment I started to do what I could to contribute to the end of human trafficking with where I was at.
You might be wondering, how does raising awareness help that girl in Cambodia?
Awareness is essential for those trapped in slavery in Cambodia because the more people who know about their situation, the more people there are to stop the situation. Do you remember the flight attendant who saved a teen girl from a trafficking situation? She was aware of the signs and acted when she saw them. She knew that human trafficking was not just in developing countries, but could be in her own country and at her own workplace. This heroic act resulted in training sessions for flight attendants on how to recognize human trafficking.
Generally, victims of human trafficking are subject to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. However, many victims are brought into human trafficking by friends, family members, or those they trust. Another common misconception about human trafficking is that it can only happen to girls. However, boys and even entire families can be victims of trafficking.
When the world’s largest anti-trafficking organization, International Justice Mission, first began working in India, slavery seemed to be concealed with many people refusing to believe that it still existed in the country. International Justice Mission’s website states their progress in India.
“We have provided training to nearly 20,000 Indian officials, and are seeing them respond with unprecedented mass enforcement actions against forced labor slavery on their own initiative. This is what will make the fight against slavery sustainable.”
Law enforcement that is aware of how to recognize and combat human trafficking will ultimately be the force arresting criminals and bringing survivors to safe places. According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking rose 35.7% in the U.S. compared to the previous year. This means that now, more than ever, victims of human trafficking need your help.
When is the next time you will be traveling for work or leisure? Know the signs of human trafficking and bring awareness to those around you. The fight against human trafficking has taken monumental steps in the past few decades and will continue to eradicate injustice as more people join.
What awareness steps will you take to shine a light on slavery?
About the Author
Kaitlyn Wanta is a recent college graduate facing the real world. After learning how to stay warm in a dress during Wisconsin's winter, she has loved hearing and sharing the stories of fellow Dressember advocates. Her bucket list includes riding in a hot air balloon, finishing a cookbook by making all the recipes, and catching a fish larger than herself.