Boy, was I wrong. Human trafficking is a $5-7 billion industry in the U.S. alone. It impacts 21 million victims worldwide, 1.5 million of which are Americans. (UNICEF)
Just so we’re all on the same page, here is the formal definition of Human Trafficking from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000:
- a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Basically, “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.” (Trafficking Resource Center)
Fortunately, many governments and organizations are working to combat this significant human rights problem. The Palermo Protocol was adopted by the United Nations to set standards for how countries should handle the issue of trafficking. Organizations like UNICEF, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, The Polaris Project and The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking are all investing significant time, money and people power in ending human trafficking.
Teens living on the streets are prime targets for human traffickers. They tend to have a limited support system and they often hang out in high risk areas such as bus or train stations, parks and shelters.
Family discord. Teens from chaotic households often seek support in inappropriate places.
Older friends or strangers who give gifts or make extraordinary promises. Does your teen have older friends that you don’t know? Have they received unexpected or extravagant gifts from someone? This deserves your attention.
Youth with a history of abuse or neglect may be more vulnerable to traffickers.
So what can you do?
Talk to your children. Connect with them. Spend time with them. Know who their friends are and where they hang out. Be engaged with your children!
Seek Help. If your teen has been a victim of some sort of trauma, consider seeking help for them in the form of counseling or a support group. Their pediatrician is a great place to start in order to get connected with the right services.
Reduce Conflict. If your family is riddled with conflict, take steps to work on the problem. Identify causes and implement solutions. Counseling can be helpful with this process.
Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Call 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733). They are available to help victims, families and community members at any time.
Let's work together to protect our communities and end human trafficking!
She is passionate about helping teens and families be happy and healthy!