(OneNation Media Services, Inc.) – Human trafficking, two words that many may think only happens in impoverished countries, however it can hit a lot closer to home. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Human Trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise. As January is recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, agencies across the country are working diligently to educate communities about this growing epidemic.
In 2016 alone, 249 cases of human trafficking were reported in Michigan, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Most of those cases were considered sex trafficking. Eighty-four sex trafficking cases included minors. Fifty-give cases were U.S. citizens.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, more than 3,500 sex trafficking cases were reported nationally last year. The International Labor Organization states that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
Who’s at Risk?
Trafficking victims don’t have a profile. It can happen to anyone. Trafficking occurs to adults and minors from all backgrounds, rural and urban cities, and those who are citizens or non-citizens. There are certain populations that are specifically vulnerable to trafficking however.
Runaway youth are often vulnerable and will be approached by traffickers at shelters, transportation hubs, and any other public space. Being around unfamiliar environments may lead teenagers to be manipulated by traffickers.
Another at-risk population are individuals who have experienced violence and trauma in the past. Those who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination may be targeted by traffickers. Traffickers can often recognize those who are vulnerable and detect former abuse.
Identifying Human Trafficking
There are some common places where human trafficking can occur. These locations could be strip clubs, massage parlors, nail salons, factories, hotels, brothels, and prostitution rings. Victims are often isolated from the public, have no control of their own money, under constant threat of violence or shame, and often in fear. If you believe that you have come into contact with a victim, call 855-444-3911. If the suspected victim is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1.
If you know a victim or if you are suspicious of human trafficking that is going on, there are resources available for you. Victims of trafficking may have to deal with many issues such as severe trauma, shelter, legal issues, financial safety, and medical needs.
National Human Trafficking Hotline:
Phone Number: 1-888-373-7888
You can also go on their website and access a live resource chat.
The Hope Project
This program helps young female victims of trafficking by giving them a place to rehabilitate and help them address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects that can help them lead to recovery. They are in the process of opening a home in West Michigan for teenage girls who have been removed from sex trafficking.
Michigan Abolitionist Project
This organization focuses on education and engagement in order to eradicate human trafficking. They believe that by ending pornography, intercept potential online sex buyers, and by educating offenders (those that have been convicted of soliciting a prostitute), human trafficking can be reduced.
Hope Against Trafficking
Hope Against Trafficking is located in Southeast Michigan and focuses on adult female survivors of sex and labor trafficking. Their goal is to educate survivors of their rights, provide physical, emotional, and psychological help, and offer education, job skill development, and goal setting. They hope to empower women to build new lives and to build a community that can help with healing.