What if I told you that over a century and a half after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, millions remain in bondage? There are more people in slavery today than the entire 400 years leading up to the civil war. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Together, we can work to reduce human trafficking by spreading awareness, implementing programs, and limiting technological use.
Slavery is a term simply too disturbing or difficult to comprehend as happening in today’s world. Such a tragic topic shouldn’t be conversed and often gets swept under the carpet. Believe it or not slavery is happening right here in our own communities and we somehow fail to notice. One of the biggest problems concerning human trafficking is that people in the U.S. are completely oblivious. How can we make efforts to solve this problem if people aren’t aware of it or are afraid to talk about it? It is almost impossible to fully understand exactly how big a problem human trafficking truly is due to the circumvention of the people involved. It is therefore difficult to determine what programs are working or what additional resources might be needed.
The first step to exploiting human trafficking is getting people to realize it’s a problem. This can be done through simple advertisements. We need something to get people talking about this tragedy that’s been taking place right under our noses. It’s vital that all U.S. citizens are aware of human trafficking and the threat it holds on society, that way people will feel confident in their ability to protect themselves and their families from harm. Another way to spread awareness is to encourage more victims to share their stories. For instance, in 2017 the Atlantic published author and journalist Alex Tizon’s account of growing up with a domestic servant whom he realized was his family’s slave. Tizon’s story drew a lot of public attention and highlighted how slavery continues largely unnoticed in American communities. Tizon’s story is only one of many, and it alone had a large impact on society. Getting more victims to share their experiences with others won’t only enlighten people about the abhorrent realities of human trafficking, but it will also accumulate more support for the battle against trafficking in the U.S. The United States is considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Between 244,000 and 325,000 U.S children are considered at risk for sexual exploitation. No parent wants this fate for their child, and thankfully it doesn’t have to be. We can implement programs within all middle schools and high schools throughout the nation (grades 6-12) that will help educate the youth about the dangers of human trafficking, and prepare them in case they find themselves in a potentially harmful situation.
The transatlantic slave trade was the largest human trafficking network in history, involved over 12 million Africans being subjected to forced labor. However, trafficking did not cease with the end of the transatlantic slave trade. In 2016 the National Human Trafficking Hotline estimated that human trafficking in the United States had increased by 35 percent in one year. Today, human trafficking within U.S. borders is as big as ever and nothing is stopping it from growing. This simply isn’t an issue that a single man can solve. If we want to successfully reduce trafficking we’re going to need help. The FBI has estimated that human trafficking is the third largest criminal activity in the world, after drugs and counterfeiting. Instead of letting history repeat itself, lets tackle this issue together, as a nation.
The first step to reduce the spread of human trafficking within the U.S. is to create partnerships between private companies and law enforcement. Together these groups can exchange information and work together to learn more about the inner workings of human trafficking within our borders.
One factor that contributes to the growth of human trafficking is technology. Today, the internet is ablaze with numerous different social media platforms, websites, and advertisements. Unfortunately, as technology continues to progress traffickers learn to adapt and frequently use these platforms to lure potential victims. For instance, perpetrators often prey on young people in vulnerable circumstances, sometimes by sending caring or romantic messages via social media and luring them to meet. When they do, traffickers may kidnap the victims or secure the victims’ cooperation with the promise of a better life. The internet is a wonderful tool used in everyday life, so it’s disappointing to see traffickers abuse it. The development and maturation of the internet, social networking, and the manufacturing of cellphones have created an environment that makes it easier for traffickers to avoid detection and increase their profits. While it is rather challenging to catch someone working behind a screen, it also takes a lot of time and resources. Recently, this past year the widespread use of online classified advertisements by sex traffickers led to passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which held websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com accountable if ads offering sex with minors or trafficked persons appeared on their sites. The passing of the FOSTA act is only a small step in the right direction. To truly make a difference in trafficking more must be done—much more.
It’s clear to see that the internet plays a vital role in the progression on trafficking within the U.S., however it wouldn’t be sensible to ban the internet as a whole. After all, the internet wasn’t created for the purpose of aiding traffickers, and we depend on it probably more than we realize. Furthermore, to reduce the trafficking taking place behind the screens, we need to do a better job of monitoring advertisements and websites. While (FOSTA) does a great job of holding websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com accountable, there are still other sites all over the internet that are not being monitored well enough. According to Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, author of Hidden in Plain Sight: America’s Slaves of the New Millennium, traffickers also frequently use platforms such as Facebook and Myspace that continue business as usual. For example, on July 31, Edgardo Maravilla-Martinez pled guilty to sex trafficking of children and assault with intent to commit 1st degree child abuse. For this offense, he was sentenced to only 72 months in prison. He recruited his teenage victims through Facebook, first with promises of money and gifts, followed by threats of deadly violence.