The Local Fight to End Human Trafficking

Woman in front of sunrise

Before FUTURES, I worked in a legal services office in a rural community along California’s Central Coast. It reminded me of the town I’m from—rural enough that you’re surrounded by fields of vegetables and fruits, but close enough to the city that it’s still impacted by the increased cost of living in more urban areas.

Too often we think of trafficking as a crime that occurs in other places—not in my neighborhood, not to my customers, not in the town I work.  The reality is 21 million people are trafficked globally, according to the International Labour Organization. It can occur in any community—in rural communities, in the suburbs, in big cities, and in the towns in between—regardless of race or socioeconomic factors.

Trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport or obtain another person for the purpose commercial sex or labor. Agriculture, domestic work, mining, construction, door-to-door sales—these are just some of the economic sectors where labor trafficking may be found. It is a form of violence that may be perpetrated by anyone including family members, an intimate partner, community members, business owners, or networks of organized crime. And while domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking are not the same thing, they can coincide and survivors of these forms of violence may experience similar forms of abuse such as physical and emotional abuse, or financial control.

In my current role at FUTURES, through our Collaborative Responses to Trafficking Technical Assistance Project, I speak to domestic violence and sexual assault service providers around the country who are leveraging their resources and collaborating with worker centers, businesses, law enforcement, and community and faith-based organizations to prevent and respond to trafficking and domestic and sexual violence in their communities. Since the inception of this project, FUTURES has trained staff from over 700 organizations representing communities in over 40 states in the United States to build capacity within their programs to address trafficking locally. Often the first point of contact for survivors escaping exploitation and abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault agencies are developing innovative programs to help trafficked survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault heal, and empowering survivors to lead efforts to organize and raise awareness about trafficking.

These programs, rooted in the communities where we live, need our support. 

So, if you are moved to work to end trafficking around the globe in these last few days of January, during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, consider starting in your own community. Educate yourself about human trafficking and then ask your friends to do the same. Support an agency or task force working to end trafficking in your community or nearby with your dollars or in-kind donations.

For more suggestions of steps you can take to prevent trafficking in your community, check out these tips.