Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include:
adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, or
children involved in the sex trade in any way (regardless of coercion), or
anyone forced into labor or service against their will, i.e. domestic workers held in a home, farm workers forced to labor without freedom to leave, or any form of debt bondage.
At any given moment, it is estimated that nearly 25 million people are being victimized in situations of trafficking and exploitation worldwide. 25% of these are children (Source: Human Rights First).
Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, most exploitation takes place close to home. Human trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere, and takes place in all countries in both urban and rural communities of all sizes, but some people are more vulnerable than others to trafficking . Significant risk factors include poverty, recent migration or relocation, substance use, and mental health concerns. In cases of child sex trafficking, additional risk factors include involvement with the child welfare system or being a runaway or homeless youth. Often traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.
If we want to truly end human trafficking, we must work to prevent potential victims from becoming vulnerable in the first place. Providing education, job training, housing, and mental health support are key ways to help empower individuals who are at risk of being trafficked so they are less susceptible.
More importantly, we need to create a society in which it is never acceptable to exploit any human being for any reason. Supply chains and governments must be held accountable for the tolerance of such abuse. We also need to be aware of how positions of privilege contribute to the injustice of human trafficking and work to achieve better equity for all humans. The Slavery Footprint Tool can help estimate how victims of trafficking are involved in supporting your lifestyle.
The Franciscan Peace Center is home to the Anti-Trafficking Committee which meets regularly at 9:00 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. For more information, call 563-242-7611. All are welcome to participate.
If you are in a trafficking situation and need help, call 1-888-377-7888 or text the word HELP to 233733 (BeFree). If you witness a situation that you suspect might involve trafficking, do not intervene, but please call your local law enforcement agency.
Polaris is a national anti-trafficking advocacy organization concentrating on victim services via a toll-free hotline. It also trains law enforcement and others to identify trafficking situations and work to bring about effective anti-trafficking legislation.
Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking
The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking coordinates Iowa’s solution to end human trafficking through coalition building, raising awareness, promoting education, advocating for effective prevention, intervention, rescue, and recovery services and effective legislation and public policy to end human trafficking in all of its forms in Iowa.
Freedom United is the world’s largest community dedicated to ending human trafficking. They equip millions of supporters with awareness, education, and ways to take action that drives real change.
Free the Slaves
Trafficking is the result of vulnerability. It flourishes where people cannot meet their basic needs and lack economic opportunity, education, health care, and honest government. The strategy of Free the Slaves is to reduce people’s vulnerability, help those in trafficking to freedom, and transform the political, economic, cultural, and social circumstances that make trafficking possible.
End Slavery Now
The goal at End Slavery Now is for the public to learn about the issue, connect with organizations, and take action to end human trafficking. Through this, they hope to build a community of activists that can come alongside the lawyers, law enforcement, and service providers to not just address the victims and consequences of trafficking but to truly end the practice.
Not for Sale
Not for Sale works with local experts to understand the causes of trafficking. They investigate local economies to discover where we might break the cycle. They partner with local entrepreneurs to create projects that provide education, empowerment, and income. Their mission is to create long-term, sustainable, scalable solutions that offer dignity, hope, and a positive future.
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy to eradicate human trafficking. The network works to inform the public, prevent this assault on human dignity, and assist survivors to live fulfilling lives.