In 2010, President Obama signed a Proclamation declaring January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. North Carolina recently joined this national movement when former Governor Beverly Perdue proclaimed January 2013 to be Human Trafficking Awareness Month in North Carolina. This gubernatorial proclamation commits North Carolina to ending human trafficking, calling for “…all citizens to learn the signs that indicate potential trafficking situations and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.”
Estimates indicate that about 800,000 people are trafficked each year around the world and in the United States. Conservative estimates indicate that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually.
Some victims are forced to work without pay. How many slaves work for you? The clothes, gadgets, and food we buy are often produced by forced labor. Some victims are forced into sexual slavery, being forced to prostitute themselves and earn money for their pimps. Trafficking knows no bounds when it comes to race, nationality, gender, socioeconomic status, or even age. Preliminary research conducted by EPCAT International shows that about 100,000 – 300,000 children in the U.S. are prostituted at any given time.
The overall scope of human trafficking is mind-boggling: Free the Slaves, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, estimates there are up to 27 million active slaves in the world today.
Signs Someone Is a Victim of Trafficking…
Current work and living conditions:
- They are required to work long hours with little or no pay
- High security measures are in place at their workplace or residence
- Presence of unusual restrictions at work, such as disallowing breaks
- They was recruited for work under false promises about the job/working conditions
- They are unable to move freely or live as they desire
- They have a large financial debt that they are unable to pay off
- They are a minor (under age 18) and involved in the commercial sex industry
Abnormal behavior, mental health concerns, and physical health concerns:
- Use limited or avoidant eye contact
- Exhibit fearfulness, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and/or nervousness
- Appear malnourished
- Exhibit physical indications of abuse, including physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, and torture
Lack of control over personal well-being:
- They own few personal artifacts
- They are not in control of personal identification documents
- They are not able to speak for themselves; someone else speaks for them
- Someone insists on being present with the individual at all times and may take over speaking for them
- They do not have a bank account or other financial records
- Not able to give address/location of residence
- Limited knowledge of whereabouts, not sure where they are
- Explanations of work and/or living conditions have holes or inconsistencies
- Do not speak English and may have another person insisting on being their translator
- They claim to be just visiting the area
- Do not have a clear sense of time
What can you do?
If you ever have even slight suspicions that trafficking is occurring, call your local law enforcement to report your suspicions. Dial 911 or call your local police department.
You can also call the 24-hour hotline of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1-888-3737-888. This toll-free hotline is available to take calls from anywhere in the United States. Interpretation services are available on the line for up to 170 different languages, and all calls are confidential. You can call the hotline to:
- Report a potential human trafficking situation
- Find out about services for survivors of trafficking your area
- Request find out more information about human trafficking, trainings, and anti-trafficking resources
- Learn about volunteer opportunities
Laurie Graham is our Programs Director. She oversees our Community Education and Direct Services programs, and she manages our Support Group program. Laurie is also a representative for the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking and serves as a rapid responder for survivors of human trafficking in our region.