Updated: Sep 11, 2020
In the intense time of COVID-19, an upcoming presidential election and racial unrest, human trafficking has recently grabbed the attention of the citizens of the United States. Recently, an allegation toward furniture and home-good company Wayfair was reported to be false by BBC News. In June of this year, the idea that Wayfair may be a venue for human traffickers was circulated on Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok and Reddit. Several social media users noticed the high price of some storage cabinets that had the same name as several missing children. While these specific allegations proved to be false, human trafficking isn’t a new problem and the issue deserves awareness. The more people know about the dangers of human trafficking, the more aware and cautious they can be. As students at a women’s college, this is a pressing issue that could affect someone in our community, since approximately 70% of human trafficking victims are female.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline website discloses helpful information to educate the public on the issue: “U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.” The top 3 types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, labor trafficking and a combination of both sex and labor trafficking. In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline had 10,949 cases, which was a 25% increase from 2017. Oftentimes cases involve more than one survivor; of those cases in 2018, 23,078 survivors were identified. The Polaris Project gives state-specific statistics and reports that North Carolina had 287 trafficking cases in 2018. To break that number down, 197 of those were sex trafficking, 14 were sex and labor, 54 were labor trafficking cases and 27 were not specified. Of those 287 cases, 853 victims were identified, 161 traffickers were identified and 99 trafficking operations were located. In North Carolina, specifically, 47% of trafficking victims were adults, 21% minors and 32% were unknown. Again, the majority of the survivors were women.
There are risk factors surrounding human trafficking, but there is no certain way to prevent human trafficking. Based on information from the Polaris Project, the top 5 risk factors in 2018 were: recent migration or relocation, substance use, unstable housing, runaway or homeless youth and mental health concerns. There is no guaranteed way to protect yourself from human trafficking, but below are some helpful tips to keep you safe.
Trust your gut. If you are uncomfortable being with someone or in a situation, leave.
Let a trusted person know if you feel unsafe.
Set up safety words with friends and relatives.
Make sure you have means of communication with you alongside the numbers of people that you can trust.
Human trafficking is a scary reality that, unfortunately, many face. Resources and information can be found on the National Human Trafficking Hotline website. You can share these resources with others or use them to educate yourself. By raising awareness, hopefully the problem will cease to exist. If you or someone you know has information regarding human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at this number: 1-888-373-7888.
By Katie Matheson, Contributing Writer