One thing most people don’t realize is that of all the atrocities in the world, human trafficking is one you can actually do something about. Yes, YOU–even if you don’t carry a badge and a gun. That’s because trafficking is essentially about economics: supply and demand. When the demand goes up, the supply will go up to meet that demand. If there were no buyers, selling human beings would no longer be profitable. Today, human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, and it is the fastest growing.
What makes this industry so appalling is that people are demanding the sale of people as if they were products. Even worse, while a product is sold once, people can be sold over and over and over again.
Tragically, the United States plays a big part in the economics of human trafficking. Americans are the highest consumers of child porn, and to meet that demand, ten thousand children are brought into the U.S. every year and sold for commercial sex. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of our own children caught in the slave trade.
In light of that, in no particular order, here are seven ways we ordinary people can fight against slavery.
1. Be aware
If you aren’t familiar with the tactics of traffickers, you’re at risk yourself. Romance is the most common method used today, and these “romeo pimps” or “loverboys” dole out affection, gifts, and compliments (online or in person) until they have won the love of their victim, who can then be blackmailed and manipulated into commercial sex acts. False job offers or educational opportunities are also used to lure in victims, and although kidnapping is rare, it does happen. So, do the research and learn their methods. Taking a self defense class is also a great way to learn about situational awareness, increase your confidence, and learn how to protect yourself.
2. Take a stand against pornography
Or, if you struggle with a porn addiction, reach out for help, my friend! Porn is exploitation on screen. It’s the common denominator for both traffickers and their clients. Traffickers use it to desensitize their victims and train them. Many times, clients start out as porn-addicts…but after they’ve watched it long enough, it doesn’t give the same rush, so they want the actual girl. Most of today’s trafficking victims are filmed at some point, and these videos are shared for consumption and advertising. There’s no way to tell if the porn you watch is consensual, and every click, every view increases the demand for more porn to be made. Even those who willingly join the industry as actors/actresses will experience exploitation…their stories are horrendous.
3. Shop secondhand or ethical brands
We all love a good deal. Consumers demand inexpensive products, which isn’t a bad thing, but the result is that many companies look for cheap–or even free–labor to cut costs and be able to offer cheap products. The result is that most of the clothing you wear involves slavery somewhere along the line, whether it was slaves who picked the cotton, or slaves who sewed your shirt. As consumers, we have a responsibility to be informed about the products we buy. I try to make it a general principle to shop secondhand and avoid fast fashion. For items such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, look for the fair trade labels!
4. Take photos of your hotel room
This one is so easy. All you have to do is download an app called TraffickCam, and whenever you travel, follow the prompts to take four different photos of your hotel room. Hotels are a favorite spot for traffickers to do business, because of the anonymity and privacy. They advertise the girls from their hotel room, which means that details such as carpet, bedspread, furniture, and window views can give away their location. When you use TraffickCam, your photos are uploaded to an online database. Using image analysis technology, law enforcement can then compare photos of suspected trafficking victims to the photos in the database, and pinpoint their location before the traffickers move them.
5. Know the signs
Traffickers are always on the move, transporting their victims from place to place. They take public transportation, they check in and out of hotels, and they eat at restaurants. The victim might be a girl in your neighborhood, a classmate at your high school, a woman at the truck stop you frequent, or a patient at the hospital where you work. Your eyes can’t see what your mind doesn’t know! Learn the signs of human trafficking so you’ll be able to recognize when a situation doesn’t seem quite right. Call the trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 even if you’re not sure about what you’re seeing, or call 911.
6. Sponsor a child
Though traffickers prey on people of all types of economic status, it is true that those in poverty are more vulnerable. Simply put, they have a need, and traffickers offer a way to fill that need, whether that be creating a false job offer, implementing debt bondage after providing food or shelter, or offering impoverished parents a good “education” for their child. When you sponsor a child, you provide for basic needs such as food, healthcare, and education. With an organization such as Compassion International, when choosing a child to sponsor, you can even narrow down your options to those most at risk of exploitation.
7. Support anti-trafficking organizations
There are many great non-profit organizations that work tirelessly to free trafficking victims, educate the public on how to fight modern slavery, and offer job opportunities to survivors. Some of these include Operation Underground Railroad, Women At Risk, Truckers Against Trafficking, and Fight the New Drug. In addition, there are local businesses that donate a percentage of their proceeds to the cause of freedom, such as Adored Boutique and Cone Appetit. These are far from being the only ones, so do a little research and support the one you’re most passionate about! Whether it’s donating money, volunteering your time, or purchasing their products, these places that fight for freedom can always use your support.
I hope one or all of these ways resonated with you, and opened your eyes to some ways you personally can join the fight against human trafficking. It’s going to take an army to end it, but all small acts add up. Don’t underestimate your power to make a difference!
“Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4
Thank you! Any specific organizations in West Michigan you can recommend?
Yes! Women at Risk International is based in West Michigan, although they have safe houses and programs around the world. You can volunteer, donate, shop at their boutique (WAR Chest Boutique), or have coffee at their cafe (Tea Trade Cafe) in Wyoming, MI. Other organizations in West Michigan include Manasseh Project, Sacred Beginnings, and Created Free. Thank you for fighting slavery!