Today I attended the Abolition Conference in Tucson, Arizona. It was an immense success as a freshman conference, and I hope it reoccurs in the future. Conference presenters did a good job of balancing statistics with painting the faces of individual victims and giving suggestions to take action. Hearing the following certainly does make one want to take action:
- Globally, 1.8 million children are forced to work in the sex industry every year (UNICEF)
- In the U.S. pimps make $100,000 or more a year, per child. Child sex slaves serve from 100 to 1500 clients a year, per child (Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007)
- The average age of entry into sex slavery in the U.S. is 13 (ibid), and pornography featuring an 11 month old has been encountered
- Of the 100,000 child sex slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted by federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies since 2001 (ibid)
Keynote speaker Bradley Myles of Polaris Project admitted that a major problem in stopping human trafficking is a lack of knowledge and direction in action steps for volunteers. With that in mind, I compiled a list of things that you can do today to add your drop in the bucket. Some of these require a short time commitment, others are habits, and some are time-intensive. Please don’t feel so overwhelmed that you don’t do anything at all (this is my de facto coping method)! Instead, just pick the easiest one and do that.
- Learn more about human trafficking.
Knowledge is power, and with an ever-changing playing field you can always learn more.
- Get involved with an anti-trafficking organization.
Southern Arizona Against Slavery, Streetlight Ministries, Soroptimist, International Justice Mission, iEmpathize, Polaris Project, and Not For Sale are just a few organizations.
> Local anti-trafficking organizations (a start; not complete)
- Invite friends to go to local trainings with you.
You probably will need someone to help in your debriefing process, anyways.
- Get trained to give human trafficking presentations.
Perhaps you are able to give presentations in your sphere of influence–your faith community, your workplace, your Rotary Club, your PTA.
- Become trained to give human trafficking presentations to youth.
Youth are usually the targets of human trafficking, and are just as able to recognize signs and report a problem. Historically, youth have done great things started by just a small flame of passion and knowledge.
> Streetlight Tucson gives trainings in this area
- Be aware of upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.
Perhaps you can assist tabling when an out-of-town organization presents at a local training or conference, or represent an anti-trafficking organization at other community events.
- Plan a fundraiser for an anti-trafficking organization.
Although it may not seem like it around tax season, the government doesn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on anti-trafficking and victim recovery (or anything else, for that matter). Communities and organizations will need to step up and provide these services, but even the most well-supplied organization still needs cash-flow.
- Advocate for relevant legislation.
Do congress members really read those letters that people send? I don’t know, but I’d rather be able to say that I did something rather than nothing. A current relevant starting point: The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011 is still going through the legislative process. The IJM has an educational page and links to see how your current representatives voted, as well as email forms to contact them.
> What grade did your state receive for protecting the innocent?
- Buy Fair Trade Certified products.
Frequent offenders are sugar, chocolate, coffee, jewelry, and rice. True, fair trade products are usually a little more costly, but that’s the price of paid labor talking.
> How many slaves work for you?
> Fair Trade USA
- Like Facebook pages and follow Twitter feeds of anti-trafficking organizations.
This will help you stay in the know, easily spread seeds of information, let people know that you care about restoring human dignity, and grow the movement.
- Host a movie night.
Suggested films are: Branded, The Price of Sex, Born into Brothels, Not for Sale, or for a lighter discussion, Slumdog Millionaire. Be aware that with some of these movies you will want to have close relationships with the people you are hosting, in addition to making sure your guests are of an appropriate maturity level.
> 10 Human Trafficking Films to Watch
- Join Streetlight’s Freedom Coalition.
Make a personal commitment to better your lifestyle, habits, and pursue emotional and spiritual freedom in your own life.
> Freedom Coalition information and support
- Book a speaker.
Local branches of national organizations and local organizations are more than willing to spread the word. Just ask!
- Decide on a scope of emphasis and join listserves.
By scope of emphasis, I mean: labor trafficking (includes bonded labor), children under 18 in the sex trade, or adults over 18 who are forced, coerced, or placed by fraud into the sex industry. Universities and colleges make frequent use of listserves, as do Yahoo groups.
- Start a book club.
Even if you only discuss one book with one friend, it’s still something. A short list to start you with: Half the Sky, anything by Kevin Bales, Not for Sale, The Good News about Injustice.
> Goodreads Human Trafficking book list
- Join a local anti-human trafficking task-force.
If you work in the health field, law enforcement of any branch, local government, education, or non-profits, there is use for you. If you are a concerned citizen, there is use for you.
- Watch for potential victims and be aware of your gut when things “just feel off.”
Renting Lacy by Linda Smith equips you with the knowledge of warning signs. If you have any questions about anything, need resources, aren’t sure who to call, are a victim, or want to report something, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline: 1-888-37-37-888.