How Can You Combat Sex Trafficking in Your Community?

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month! Did you know there are an estimated 50 million trafficked and enslaved people throughout our world?

Human trafficking comes in many forms: labor trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor, forced marriage, organ trafficking, etc. “Trafficking” is anything that involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of people through force or deception to make money. Of all the forms human trafficking can take, sex trafficking impacts almost half of the total estimated trafficked people in our world… that’s around 25 million. And it’s happening around you, whether you recognize it or not.

Sex trafficking isn’t always apparent, and those who are involved may be deceived or manipulated into not wanting out of the vicious cycle. That’s why it’s crucial to learn what you can about trafficking, how to recognize it, and what you can do to help.

How to Combat Sex Trafficking

Understanding Sex Trafficking: What Is It?

When you think about human trafficking, you may assume that it’s not happening here—it’s happening far away, in other countries, right? Wrong. Several common assumptions about sex trafficking are myths, not facts. For example:

  • Myth: The United States and its citizens are safe from dangers like human trafficking.
  • Fact: The National Human Trafficking Hotline records upwards of 50,000 reports of suspected sex trafficking each year, and estimates indicate that number doesn’t come close to touching how many people are trapped in these situations because victims are hesitant to report, and it’s difficult to prosecute traffickers. 
  • Myth: Sex trafficking only happens between strangers.
  • Fact: The majority of sex trafficking involves family members, friends, or intimate partners, which further complicates the victim's ability to recognize their situation and their willingness to make a report. 
  • Myth: Only women are victims of sex trafficking.
  • Fact: Some studies suggest that at least half of trafficking victims are male, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are increasingly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
  • Myth: Sex trafficking is easy to recognize because it’s violent and victims are physically unable to leave their situation.
  • Fact: While a sex trafficking situation can involve a kidnapping or the use of physical force, the majority of cases occur when a trafficker uses manipulation or psychological methods. They trick, defraud, or threaten their victims into providing sex for money, making it look like the victim is a willing participant.

Sex trafficking is any instance in which a person is made to perform commercial sex acts by force, fraud, or coercion. If the victim is under 18, any commercial sex is deemed trafficking, regardless of whether there’s evidence of force, fraud, or coercion. Sex trafficking can happen anywhere, but common sites include fake massage businesses, escort services, residential brothels, in public on city streets and truck stops, strip clubs, hostess clubs, hotels and motels, illicit pornography, homeless and domestic violence shelters, etc. It’s a pervasive crime that’s not always easy to spot, so what, if anything, can you do about it?

Recognizing Signs of Sex Trafficking: Red Flags to Look For

Common Sex Trafficking Red Flags

  • They want to stop participating in selling or trading sex but feel scared or unable to leave.
  • They disclose that they were reluctant to engage in selling sex but that someone pressured them into it.
  • They live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace.
  • They are children who live with or are supported by or dependent on a family member with a substance abuse problem or who is abusive in other ways.
  • They have a pimp or manager in the sex trade.
  • They work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.
  • They have an older or simply controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who will not allow you to meet or speak with the person alone or monitors their movements, spending, and/or communications.

—Polaris Project

How to Help Sex Trafficking Victims: A Proactive Approach

There are several ways you can be more involved in spotting and supporting victims of human trafficking:

  • If you suspect that someone may be a victim of human trafficking, report it to the authorities or a trusted organization that can help. The number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888, or text *233722).
  • Stay informed about the signs of sex trafficking and educate your community. Awareness is a powerful tool in preventing and addressing this crime.
  • Support anti-trafficking organizations. These organizations provide support to victims and work on prevention and advocacy. Contribute money or volunteer your time.
  • Be a vigilant observer. Pay attention to your surroundings. If you notice something suspicious, report it to law enforcement or local authorities.
  • Support victims with compassion. If you encounter someone you suspect is a trafficking victim, approach them with compassion. Provide information about available resources and encourage them to seek help.
  • Advocate for policy changes. Support policies that strengthen anti-trafficking measures. Encourage your local representatives to prioritize legislation that addresses sex trafficking.
  • Engage with law enforcement. Collaborate with law enforcement agencies to stay informed about their efforts in combatting sex trafficking. Report any information that could aid in their investigations.
  • Offer safe spaces. Create safe spaces within your community where victims can seek help without fear of retribution—partner with local businesses, healthcare providers, and community centers to establish these havens.
  • Foster community awareness. Organize workshops, seminars, or awareness campaigns within your community to foster understanding and recognition of sex trafficking signs.

It is possible for you to make an impact on the human trafficking epidemic. Know your facts and help debunk common myths. Be aware of your surroundings and the resources available in your community. Together, we can work toward eliminating sex trafficking and supporting its victims.

A Collective Effort Against Sex Trafficking

Call to action:

  • Have empathy.
  • Be vigilant.
  • Advocate for change.
  • Champion for those who need our help the most.
  • Commit to creating a society where exploitation is no longer tolerated.

Luke 4:18 says that Jesus was sent to “proclaim release to the captives, [recover] sight to the blind, [and] set at liberty them that are bruised.” As Christians and as human beings with the divine love of God in our hearts, it’s time for us to step up and find ways to contribute to the efforts of those who are actively working to free people from human trafficking. If you suspect someone you know is involved in a human trafficking situation, or if you want to learn more about how you can help, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our Hope Coaches.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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