This blog post was written by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s End Trafficking team.
In San Antonio, a five-year-old boy is abused by his stepfather. By the time he is 14, he has been exploited by a child sex trafficking ring for most of his life. In Denver, a 13-year-old girl and her best friend are pimped out to gang members by her drug-addicted mother. In New York, a woman receives a desperate call from her 16-year-old niece and 18-year-old nephew. They want to leave their jobs in a traveling sales crew but fear retaliation from crew leaders if they go. All of these children are U.S. citizens. All of these children are victims of human trafficking.
Across the United States, children, women and men are victims of human trafficking. Victims can include both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Most U.S. citizens who are victimized are trafficked for sex, usually in pimp-controlled prostitution. But labor trafficking is rampant, too. Victims can be found in restaurants and bars, the tourism industry, and agricultural work.
Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery, subjecting its victims to forced labor, prostitution, migrant farming, forced marriage, and more. Human trafficking is lucrative, generating an estimated $32 billion a year in profits. According to the ILO, there are 5.5 million trafficked children around the world today—making up 26% of human trafficking’s victims.
Though some of us may be aware that human trafficking exists, rarely do we believe that it is happening in our own backyard, let alone to our own citizens. But according to the Polaris Project, which runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888.373.7888), cases of trafficking have been reported in all 50 states. Exploited people are often hidden in plain sight.
But there is hope.
Last week, President Obama proclaimed January 2013 to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. And today, January 11, is the day to raise awareness.
In honor of this month, we have launched a public awareness campaign declaring that UNICEF believes in a world with ZERO exploited children, ZERO children suffering from violence, ZERO trafficked children. This important message will be distributed nationally through TV and radio announcements, social media, print ads, and mall posters. Screenings of the human trafficking documentary Not My Life will be held in several cities, along with Google+ Hangouts to promote campaign features.
Ultimately, our goals are to raise awareness about child trafficking and mobilize people like you to take action to help protect children. Here are a few ideas for how to get started:
- Watch and share our new PSA on child trafficking featuring Angie Harmon
- Use our teacher resources at a school to educate students on child trafficking
- Post hotline postcards around your neighborhood. Download one here.
- Host a fundraiser to support UNICEF’s child protection programs. (Download a fundraising toolkit from our Action Center.)
- Take the Slavery Footprint survey to learn how the work of exploited people is connected to your lifestyle
- Switch to Fair Trade brands when you shop
- Download our End Trafficking Toolkit with over 20 ways to take action in your own community
If you or someone you know has been affected by trafficking, or to get information or request training, visit nhtrc.polarisproject.org or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Your call is confidential.