Human Trafficking: Are you helping or hurting?

In September, the American Association of Christian Counselors held their 2015 World Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I had the privilege of attending over a dozen of the approximately 200 sessions, and I was blown away by the amount of quality information presented! Over the next few weeks, I’d like to shed light on a few of those topics. For this post, I’d like to share some reflections on the human trafficking research that Jennie Brightup, MS, LCMFT (of Bright Hope Therapy, LLC) has been working hard to present and apply to the world of counseling.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Every day, people in the United States and across the world are being recruited, sold, or harbored by force, fraud, and coercion so that they can be used for labor, service and/or sex. I think it is important to emphasize that human trafficking includes both labor and sex, especially since counselors in some states are mandated to report all types of suspected human trafficking. Examples of human trafficking can include: pornography, prostitution, sex tourism, forced marriage, sweatshop work, begging, migrant farming, domestic servitude, janitorial services, strip club dancing, hair and nail salons, and debt bondage. In case you need to be convinced that human trafficking is a serious issue, consider these statistics:

  • The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. 5.5 million of those are children. 14.2 million of those are victims of labor exploitation.
  • In 2014, the International Labor Organization estimated that forced labor generates $150 billion in profits a year worldwide.
  • In 2014, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 68 percent were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.
  • The average victim of human trafficking only lives 7 years as a victim because they are often used to death.

Do you enable slavery? I bet you do and don’t even know it.

  • Start by visiting the Slavery Footprint website, take the quiz, and see how many people are in slavery to support your lifestyle. (I was surprised and saddened by my score.)
  • And remember, if you watch pornography or pay for sex, you are directly investing your resources into one of the largest businesses within the human trafficking industry.

Do you want to be a part of the solution? I bet you do.

  • Start by recognizing that many of the things you purchase probably feed into a slavery-reliant supply chain. By shifting your consumerism, you can support organizations which have taken a stand against human trafficking.
  • Save and share the phone number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888). Call this number to report tips or get help.
  • Support the quest of Made In a Free World by sending emails to your favorite companies to encourage them to consider their slavery footprint.
  • Support organizations that combat human trafficking. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel! Check out some of these local organizations which are already fighting the fight:
  • Send letters to urge Congress to pass legislation to crack down on those who have made human trafficking a multi-billion dollar industry rather than punishing victims. In PA, House Bill 262 has gotten attention for its potential to help human trafficking victims in Western Pennsylvania.
  • Recognize these signs of human trafficking. If you see someone dealing with questionable work/living conditions, poor health, and lack of control, consider making a tip by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888) or by texting INFO or HELP to: BeFree (233733).
  • Change your language. Recognize that labels like “hooker” and “prostitute” keep human trafficking victims in a scapegoat position. In fact, some states are already changing legislation to help human trafficking victims find freedom while enforcing harsher penalties on consumers of sex trafficking.
  • Tell your friends what you’re learning! Ignorance will keep the human trafficking industry thriving, but educating yourself and others will be fundamentally important in this fight.

Please realize that human trafficking is something that happens right here in Western Pennsylvania. What is one thing you will do today to fight for the people trapped in slavery?

Brightup, J. (2015, September 25). Human Trafficking. Lecture presented at AACC 2015 World Conference in Gaylord Opryland, Nashville.

Published by Jessica Gage, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (license #PC007550) and a National Certified Counselor.

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