Human trafficking occurs in every corner of the globe from the southernmost foothills of Patagonia to the northernmost region of Siberia. Human trafficking is an egregious violation of human rights – one that often strips its victims of self-worth only to refill them with fear, isolation and desperation.
In the United States, a country most may not immediately associate with human trafficking, the U.S. Department of Justice ranks human trafficking as the second fastest growing criminal industry, behind only drug trafficking, with between 14,500 and 17,500 new people trafficked into America each year.
Every hour, 34 people in America are forced into prostitution.
In 2013, human trafficking made national headlines when Ariel Castro was arrested (and eventually convicted) for kidnapping, raping, and forcibly locking three girls in his basement for a period spanning over ten years. One victim, Amanda Berry, even bore his child, thereby increasing the victim count to four.
As a result of the Castro case and several others like it, the movement to punish traffickers and to end human trafficking in the United States has been gaining speed.
Expanding on previous attempts to end human trafficking, on January 14th the United States government published its first ever Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. The Action Plan aims to crack down on traffickers, develop a strategic action plan to strengthen victim services, and strengthen protections against human traffickers in federal contracts. Additionally, U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. However, the federal government is not the only government entity taking a strong stance against human trafficking.
In August, Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking in the United States, released its 2013 state ratings on human trafficking laws. In 2013 alone, 39 states passed anti-trafficking laws and 32 ranked in Polaris Project’s top Tier 1 category* – up from 21 states last year.
Over the past year, the momentum among advocates, legislators, and state officials to pass robust laws combatting human trafficking has been inspiring. We’ve witnessed a historic turning point now that all fifty states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking. However, criminals are trafficking women, men, and children from coast to coast at horrendous rates. In every state, we need to give prosecutors and law enforcement the right tools to stop traffickers, and state agencies must have the ability to protect survivors and help them reclaim their freedom.” – Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project.
Additionally, Polaris Project recently published the report, Human Trafficking Trends in the United States. In it, the organization reveals not only a rising number of human trafficking cases but also an increasing level of community awareness. For example, in the five-year period between 2008 and 2012, the National Trafficking Resource Center (NTRC) hotline received a 259%** increase in reports of human trafficking, a statistic undoubtedly due to the combined increase in cases as well as awareness.
Along with governing bodies and anti-trafficking organizations, the growing amount of national media attention also plays an important role in spreading awareness. For example, in August CNN profiled several victims to learn about their experiences in the sex trade; in December The Kansas City Star wrote a five-part series on human trafficking in America; and just a few days ago USA Today warned of high levels of sex trafficking during the Superbowl.
The Superbowl is the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
Even though human trafficking statistics in the United States remain at inexcusable levels, the good news is that awareness is on the rise – and awareness is always the first step.
If you are a victim or suspect a case of human trafficking, please call the NTRC at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733) for support.
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*States in the top Tier 1 have passed “significant [anti-trafficking] laws” while states in the lowest tier, Tier 4, have made “minimal effort.”
**The NTRC hotline received 5,746 calls in 2008 and 20,650 in 2012.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons