Here’s How You Can Join In The Mission To End Human Trafficking
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
As Human Trafficking Day Against Persons approaches, there is a lot to think about. Every day, people who don’t even look like the “bad guys” are making big bucks without batting an eye. Children you couldn’t imagine being victims are silently suffering.
Human trafficking happens in neighborhoods and local grocery stores. It can happen in close families and small friend groups. It’s not always a dark alley or a sudden kidnap. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend but starting conversations and educating yourself is one of the best ways to be prepared.
Understand The Narrative
Generally speaking, anyone vulnerable can automatically become a target. This is because traffickers look for ways to fill a need/want and then exploit the victim in the process. But there are some signs to look out for that put someone at higher risk.
Here are some key factors that will make an individual more susceptible:
Instability (Can be emotional, mental, financial, etc)
Isolation (due to discrimination against race, gender, age, etc)
All it takes is one vulnerability. So keep this in mind when you want to support the people in your community. Never assume that someone looks “normal” or “has their life together”. The industry is hidden in plain sight and the reality is someone you know could be fighting for their life behind the scenes.
Here’s How You Can Take Action
Fighting to eradicate human trafficking can feel overwhelming at first. But educating yourself with resources is a great place to start! The more you learn, the better equipped you'll be!
Know the red flags
Be on guard when you're out and about and follow your gut if something feels off. Some common red flags to look out for:
Signs of physical abuse or abandonment: Traffickers are notorious for using physical abuse/neglect as a form of punishment or manipulation
The victim is never left unattended or without someone watching over them nearby
The victim doesn’t have possession of their identification documents
The victim’s responses to questions seem rehearsed and unauthentic
The victim is fearful or submissive
The victim seems underage
If you decide to report suspicious activity, make sure to talk to an official or someone that you know can help. It's best not to talk directly to the victim. Victims can feel threatened if you reach out and they may respond in fear. Although this isn't always the case it’s best to feel out the situation before making any sudden moves and reach out to a professional for guidance. There are a few different ways you can file a report. You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888. Or you can download the STOP app. This app lets you turn in pictures which can be helpful for authorities when identifying clues.
Give what you can
Reach out to local organizations and ask them what they need. Maybe you're a business owner that's hiring and can provide jobs to survivors. Or maybe you have some extra school supplies on your hands that you can donate. Think about what you can offer and pitch in!
I’ve added some categories below to reference back to if you want more specific actions you can take. While most of these tips overlap and can be used regardless of who you are; it’s good to consider the roles others play in making an impact too. This way you can stay informed and give advice when someone needs guidance.
Implement a CSR strategy
Having a Corporate Social Responsibility plan will help you stay compliant and avoid any risky business moves that could compromise your fight in eradicating modern-day slavery. In addition to prevention, you’ll also be eliminating any weak links in your business that could be jeopardizing your growth and impact. For example, maybe you need to investigate your supply chains and replace them with ethical ones that align with your mission. Check out the Training Toolkit by the Fair Labor Association, the Slavery & Trafficking Risk Template, and the Responsible Sourcing Tool to gain some insights on reputable supply chains.
Overall, having a CSR strategy will help you lead responsibly and prevent any funny business. You can learn more about implementing a CSR strategy here.
Set the standard
As a business, you need to have a zero-tolerance policy towards human trafficking that protects human rights. Having ethical policies start with a good leadership team. In other words, be a living example of what excellent conduct looks like. No one is perfect, but you’d be surprised how many eyes take note of our behavior in the workplace. If our actions don’t line up with the business’s values, there is a disconnect and people will take policies less seriously.
Speak up when you see something and don’t make exceptions. Have accountability partners to keep yourself in check. If there are miscommunications on how to handle certain situations, address them with clarity and grace. Consider having training programs regularly as your policies change. Conflict resolution is inevitable but everyone involved should have a clear understanding of these policies and each policy should be integrated into contracts to maintain consistency in a business’s operations. Ethical policies on their own won't prevent human trafficking entirely. But it's a huge step in the right direction!
Understand your role in a victim’s journey
As business owners, we play a critical role in various parts of a victim’s journey. From their exploitation to their rescue, we have to understand that every business decision we make will influence someone’s quality of life for better or for worse.
Turning a blind eye to these issues will hurt more than just victims. If you don’t take action, you risk the chance of ruining your business. Your business’s reputation is at stake. But, by fighting to end human trafficking, you promote a healthy labor force and protect the global supply chain. You build and maintain trust with your consumers and investors through sourcing products/services that are ethical and sustainable! You pave the way for survivors to have a better life!
It’s our responsibility to use these spaces for good. For example, we can train our staff to recognize red flags and choose to create resources for survivors like recovery assistance programs, employment opportunities, and career development initiatives. We can use our platforms as a voice for freedom and share stories of how actions in the workspace are saving lives.
Some other creative ways to play your part as a business owner:
Spark conversations: Reach out to human rights professionals in your area and have conversations with them! You can do a zoom call, a podcast, Instagram live interview, a written blog post, etc. Publicly including others in your conversations helps build awareness and promotes curiosity around important topics like exploitation, ethical supply chains, fair wages, etc. This is also a great opportunity to share what you are learning about human trafficking, ask questions, get honest feedback, and talk about potential solutions with your community. As you learn more about the best practices you can take, you can also share these experiences with other business owners.
Buy products that support human rights: Keep an ongoing list of products you’ve discovered that are responsibly made. Be intentional and buy products that benefit survivors! Talk about each brand’s mission and why you choose them over other brands. Dedicate an Instagram story highlight for your collection of products to make it easily accessible for others. Also, show your appreciation and tag the brands!
Post about anti-human trafficking organizations on your social platforms: Share WHY you love them and HOW it has impacted you personally. You can even create a unique hashtag for people to follow, to learn more about your philanthropic journey. Maybe you’d like to share about a fundraiser event that you attended. People will be inspired and build trust knowing that you’re paying it forward. This adds a personal touch to the typical “shout-out” post because people will be able to track your commitment and consistency. They’ll know that this isn’t a phase or a one-time thing.
Cut off the demand
Start analyzing the sources of your products. If you find red flags, do some digging to find new brands to support. If you're uncertain it's safe, then replace the product with something that's fair trade certified or look for local businesses to support. This way you can be clear on where your money is going. Also, consider using apps like Good On You and Sweat & Toil! These tools provide you with sustainable alternatives and will help you avoid exploitation.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, sex trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry based on supply and demand principles. Buyers of commercial sex need to understand the influence they have and stop participating in the industry. By cutting off the demand, it removes the incentive for traffickers to make a profit.
Parenting isn’t easy and the dark reality of human trafficking is a tough pill to swallow. But there are many preventative measures you can take that will give you some peace of mind.
Advocate for online safety
Take interest in what your child enjoys doing online. If your child is an avid Star Wars fan and follows a fan Discord account, ask them about it and take a genuine interest in it. If your child has an Instagram, make one for yourself and try to engage with them as much as possible. The goal is to build trust with them so that they don't feel the need to be secretive. Never be judgemental and always consider their point of view. By building a safe space for them, you empower them to ask for guidance and help if something happens.
Create a digital toolkit
This industry changes very quickly, so you need to find ways to stay up to date with what’s going on. A good way to do this is by creating a list of resources for yourself that you can come back to and update as needed. There are some great organizations you can check out at the end of this post for additional resources but here are a few informative articles to get you started:
Use your student resources
As a student, you have access to tools that many people don’t have. Talk to your professors and specialized professionals on issues that matter to you. Many organizations will also have guides and tools specifically for students like Polaris's Student Engagement Toolkit.
Attend student-led events
Stay up to date with what's happening on your campus! Most times your school will have student-led clubs and awareness events dedicated to human rights issues.
Anywhere you go, as long as you are taking up space, there is a possibility that human trafficking is happening right under your nose. As travelers, we have the unique opportunity to step in and potentially rescue victims or prevent the nightmare from starting.
Download the TrafficCam app!
This app allows you to take pictures of your hotel room to help authorities learn more about where crimes are being committed for future prevention.
Support hotels with anti-human trafficking policies
If you don't know the policies of where you're staying don't hesitate to ask questions and request them to change their policies. Sometimes hotels just need a push in the right direction. If there's a demand they are more likely to fill the need. You can learn more about hotels that are being proactive here.
Reach Out To Local Organizations
From survivor-led organizations to global nonprofits and private sectors, all of these are relevant. But I always recommend seeking out local initiatives to support first. Your community needs you the most right now! So be an active member in your neighborhood. Polaris has a cool directory you can check out here for local options!
The internet is overflowing with tools to educate yourself. From books and podcasts to online courses and documentaries, there's no excuse to be in the dark. I've linked a few of my favorites below but remember these resources are only one search away. So be ambitious and support the ones that inspire you!
Thorn: We are dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. And we won't stop until every child can just be a kid.
The A21 Campaign: A21 is abolishing slavery everywhere, forever. Together, we are eradicating human trafficking through awareness, intervention, and aftercare.
Polaris Project: Founded in 2002, Polaris is named for the North Star, which people held in slavery in the United States used as a guide to navigate their way to freedom.
OUR: Operation Underground Railroad is a United States-based nonprofit organization whose stated goal is to assist government agencies in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children, with the wider goal of eliminating sex trafficking worldwide
The Human Trafficking Institute: The Human Trafficking Institute exists to decimate modern slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers. Working inside criminal justice systems, HTI provides the embedded experts, world-class training, investigative resources, and evidence-based research necessary to free victims.
We can move forward boldly by working together. I believe there is always hope even if it’s in the midst of a challenging circumstance or questionable mistake. We all have something to contribute to society and by not giving up, we are one step closer to making a difference.
About the Author: Danielle Howard
Danielle Howard is a digital marketer and freelance writer for environmental sustainability and anti-human trafficking issues. She is passionate about helping vulnerable communities thrive,
and spends her free time volunteering, traveling, and working on her upcoming blog “Thoughtfully Maria”.