Slavery and human trafficking prevention

President Obama has proclaimed January 2013 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, reports Caring House officials.

Around the world today, the estimated number of trafficking victims ranges from 20-30 million.

“This month, we rededicate ourselves to stopping one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time,” Obama said in his proclamation. “Around the world, millions of men, women, and children are bought, sold, beaten, and abused, locked in compelled service and hidden in darkness. They toil in factories and fields; in brothels and sweatshops; at sea, abroad, and at home. They are the victims of human trafficking – a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery.”

“As Americans, we have long rejected such cruelty,” Obama said. “We have recognized it as a debasement of our common humanity and an affront to the principles we cherish. And for more than a century, we have made it a national mission to bring slavery and human trafficking to an end.”

In the United States, there have been reports of human trafficking in all 50 U.S. states, according to Trafficking in Persons Report of 2011.

The U.S. is a source and transit point for trafficking and is considered one of the major destinations for trafficking victims, said Cheryl O’Neil, Executive Director of Caring House, Iron Mountain’s domestic violence shelter.

Anyone can be trafficked regardless of class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when lured by false promises and the desire for a better life, O’Neil said.

In the U.S. more citizens are victims of sex trafficking than labor trafficking, said Trafficking in Persons Report of 2012.

Victims of sex trafficking often share risk factors, including: child sex abuse, parental neglect, parental drug use, emotional and/or physical abuse by a family member and poverty.

The average age of a child first forced into the sex slave trade in the U.S. is 13, said the U.S. Department of Justice. Some children are just infants or toddlers when they are first exploited by sex traffickers.

Children and unsuspected families are enticed with material goods, promises of employment and a better life and false marriage proposals.

Human trafficking operates on principles of supply and demand.

It is extremely profitable, generating as estimated $32 billion in yearly profits.

Traffickers make high profits and run low risks, O’Neil said.

The incessant demand for commercial sex and cheap labor puts children throughout the world at risk of becoming the “supply.” The internet has become a “marketplace” for sex trafficking where perpetrators can easily avoid the authorities, facilitate transactions, and lie about the age of their victims.

The U. S. government leads efforts to combat human trafficking.

For more than a decade U.S. leadership has worked to address the issue, O’Neil said.

Under the Clinton Administration, the United States established a foundation for combating human trafficking based on the “Three P’s”: prevention, protection and prosecution.

In 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was the first comprehensive U.S. legislative framework for addressing human trafficking.

Across the country, task forces and coalitions are developing innovated ways to combat human trafficking.

“Here in our community we need to take action to end trafficking,” O’Neil said. “You can help by supporting policies that protect victims of trafficking and educating yourself.”

To help, the FBI lists some Human Trafficking Myths below.

Be aware of these enduring myths about human trafficking:

Myth: Trafficking must involve the crossing of borders.

Fact: Despite the use of the word “trafficking,” victims can actually be held within their own country-anti-trafficking laws don’t require that victims must have traveled from somewhere else.

Myth: U.S. citizens can’t be trafficked.

Fact: They can and they are.

Myth: Victims know what they are getting into or have chances to escape.

Fact: They’re actually duped into it and may not even think of escaping because of threats against them or ignorance of the law.

Myth: Victims are never paid.

Fact: Sometimes they are paid, but not very much.

Myth: Victims never have freedom of movement.

Fact: Some victims can move about, but are coerced into always returning, perhaps with a threat against their families back home.

The National Trafficking Hotline phone number is 1-888-373-7888.