January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

The Gift Box
The Gift Box

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are using this and the many visitors to New York for the Super Bowl as an opportunity to raise awareness of the moral issue of human trafficking. Pictured is a sculpture called The Gift Box, set up in Union Square (a high traffic area in New York City) that describes how proimises of a better life, a good education and a good job can lead innocent people to become victims of this crime.

Human Trafficking is defined as “modern day slavery” because it controls a person through force, fraud or coercion—physical or psychological—to exploit the person for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. Women, children and men are all affected by this crime. By federal law any minor exploited by prostitution or pornography is considered trafficked. Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry and profits are estimated at more than $32 billion annually. It is illegal in every country in the world. The demand must be stopped!

It is estimated that annually 27 million persons are trafficked globally: 80% are women; 15% are children; and 5% are men. In the U.S. 82% of the incidents involved sex trafficking, of these 98% are women & girls. Ninety-five percent of the victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking and the majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age. In the U.S. alone, 100,000 U.S. children are commercially sexually exploited every year and the number may be as high as 300,000. The Internet is a major source for predators’ hunting, recruitment and trapping unsuspecting and/or innocent victims.

Where are the victims of Human Trafficking? They can be found in sweatshops, forced prostitution, domestic servitude, restaurants, agriculture, construction, and in hotel/motel cleaning services to name a few. During major sporting events such as the Super Bowl or World Cup, ads for and engagement of prostituted escorts significantly increase.

Who might be a victim?

• Someone employed in a hotel or restaurant you patronize

• A neighbor’s housekeeper or nanny

• A teenage girl “working the street”

• Residents of an apartment who are all young men working odd hours and never going out otherwise or young women who come and go in shifts during the night

What should one do if you suspect a person may be a victim of trafficking? Act on your suspicions and/or intuitions that something just “isn’t right” in a particular situation – call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 (they can also provide information on resources in your local area), your local law enforcement or the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-428-7581. Reporting your concerns could save a life!

You can also join with other individuals and organizations addressing this issue as the Sisters of Mercy have. Together, they are working to raise awareness of the issue, providing direct services to victims and advocating for policy change and stronger legislation to abolish this criminal industry. For more information, click here.

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