National Human Trafficking Prevention Month
By Emily Miller, Writing Intern
The month of January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. When people picture the fight against human trafficking, they may imagine SWAT teams breaking into brothels and saving the exploited victims in action-movie style. However, the most efficient means of fighting human trafficking is prevention. While we can send task forces into places of suspected human trafficking, preventing human trafficking from happening before it starts will save potential victims from experiencing that trauma.
To prevent human trafficking, one must be aware of risk factors and vulnerable populations. Therefore, education on the issues is essential to human trafficking prevention. There are various risk factors and vulnerable populations for every type of human trafficking; for example, some risk factors for child sex trafficking are “poverty, childhood abuse, family disruption, school related problems, runaways and homelessness, child welfare involvement, low self-esteem, and community factors”. Human traffickers tend to target those who have experienced prior abuse and violence from poor socioeconomic conditions because they are vulnerable to future exploitation. Human trafficking prevention involves addressing and eliminating the socioeconomic conditions that fuel the trafficking industry; to do this, it is necessary to be educated on these issues.
Legal responses to human trafficking tend to focus on the prosecution of the trafficker and overlook the protection of the trafficked. Despite millions of dollars being poured into catching traffickers, global human trafficking rates continue to increase. One article from the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies says “…even in the rare cases where trafficked persons have received rights-protective treatment and aftercare, they nonetheless are left facing the socioeconomic conditions that rendered them vulnerable to the abuse in the first instance”. While still ensuring that traffickers are brought to justice, we must be survivor-focused by lifting the vulnerable out of conditions that leave them susceptible to exploitation. Human trafficking prevention protects survivors and vulnerable populations from further trauma.
While some is being done to raise awareness of human trafficking, not enough is being done to practice prevention. For example, California state schools are mandated to instruct students on human trafficking once between 7th and 8th grade and again between 9th and 12th grade. As Dr. Morgan, the GCWJ director, said at the most recent Priceless event: “that would be like trying to prevent cavities by brushing your teeth once in middle school and once in high school”. Like brushing your teeth, education on and elimination of the socioeconomic conditions that fuel the trafficking industry must become a daily practice to prevent human trafficking.
- National Human Trafficking Hotline – 1-888-373-7888