January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

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It is a stain on common decency and the degradation of the social fabric that weaves morality and basic humanity.

Yet it’s also an issue that many see as an issue of concern “over there.” However, human trafficking is a big problem – not to mention big business – in the United States. According to estimates from Polaris – the nonprofit, nongovernmental agency that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Human and Human Services – the number of U.S. victims likely reaches into the hundreds of thousands of adults and minors when sex trafficking and labor trafficking are both taken into account. In addition, the International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.

Presidential proclamation designates January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States. In a 2017 blog post, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Russell C. Deyo wrote that the agency works “to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking each day because it robs people of their freedom, it makes our homeland less secure and it stands in stark contrast to our American values.”

However, Deyo noted that Homeland Security professionals don’t have to be alone in combating human trafficking. Anyone can battle the issue by recognizing the signs of human trafficking and knowing where to report suspected instances of human trafficking. In 2010, Homeland Security created the Blue Campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking and educate the public to recognize and report possible occurrences.

Common indicators to help recognize human trafficking listed under the Blue Campaign include:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented, confused or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

The National Human Trafficking Hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at (888) 373-7888. 


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