Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2018
When the 13th Amendment passed in 1865, the Transatlantic Slave trade ended and slavery was deemed illegal in America. While this milestone was an important step in the abolitionist movement across the United States, it was not the ending point many today continue to think it is. To remind ourselves and each other that another form of slavery has manifested itself into this country, President Barack Obama proclaimed in 2010 that January be the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month following the U.S. Senate’s declaration naming January 11th as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
While it is important to recognize that modern-day slavery is a global phenomenon that affects approximately more than 45 million individuals worldwide, it is also important to take the time to recognize how it affects the country that you live in and the communities that surround you. For Americans, that includes recognizing the cities with the highest populations of trafficked persons such as Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City. It also includes looking deeper at the “Massage Parlors” that you pass on the streets, noticing suspicious inconsistencies in sex ads, and even opening your eyes to take notice of people that look out of place in the environment surrounding you.
But what does human trafficking awareness really mean?
Awareness is about more than spouting statistics to overwhelm and guilt others into paying attention. Instead, it should be about creating open and safe spaces for the honest recollection and recognition of the harsh realities that many people—individuals with hopes, dreams, the capacity to love and be heartbroken like all humans can—are forced to live through. Because it will only be after this recollection and recognition, that we as a human race will be able to continue providing meaningful, sustainable change into arguably one of the greatest humanitarian crises of this generation.
So what does sustainable and meaningful change look like?
It is really easy to hear about humanitarian issues such as modern slavery and give money to the first organization that comes up on google to appease the disgust we feel. Let us be clear, that this is not a bad thing. Organizations need finances to operate and create a meaningful impact. But we must also recognize that when it comes to human trafficking and modern-day slavery, the rescue of an individual is only the beginning. To create a lasting and sustainable change, we must see a commitment to the recovery of the survivors, prosecution of the criminals, and incarceration; things that take time, money, and high levels of skill to achieve. Often, the work that does the most good in these cases is the work that is done with little immediate reward over long periods of time.
Okay, but I am not someone with the skills to help with recovery, prosecution, and incarceration…what can I do?
Your homework! Modern-day abolitionists will not be able to end slavery without reading up on what exactly this monster that we are fighting is. Just because you are not a specialist putting in those long hours doesn’t mean that you still can’t make a difference. And the good news is: if you're reading this on the Dressember blog you are already on your way to being an equipped advocate! By doing your homework and reading about what modern slavery looks like in the U.S. and abroad, you are already equipping yourself with the skills to be the kind of advocate that will help others understand this complex issue.
Websites like the Polaris Project, the Human Trafficking Hotline, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are great places to start. Researching local non-profits in your community and resources published by your local law enforcement are also great ways to be aware about how this issue affects individuals close to you.
If you don’t want to stop there, the next battle that modern- day abolitionists face is resources. Dressember is proof that by simply pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little and engaging the community around you--even in small ways--those efforts will snowball to create big change across the globe.
Today is a day that we celebrate the good that can come from working together and the hope that is created in the darkest of moments. And if you were waiting for an invitation or a sign that it is time to stand against modern slavery, you don’t have to wait any longer.
About the Author
Beth Woods is a lover of all things outdoors, animals, and random dance parties in the car. She lives in College Station, Texas where she is studying international relations and French at Texas A&M University and hopes to continue advocating against slavery for her career someday.