By Emily Walter,
Office of Domestic Violence Strategies, Mayor’s Office of Engagement for Women
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is when someone is forced, coerced, or tricked into providing labor services (labor trafficking) or commercial sex acts (sex trafficking) against their will.
Essentially, it is the exploitation and control of an individual or group by another individual or group. Trafficking can impact any community, regardless of race, nationality, gender, religion, immigration status, or socio-economic background.
Like other violent crimes, human trafficking can feel like a difficult subject to talk about. However, increasing education and awareness are important preventative tools. Many of us have pre-constructed ideas about what traffickers and trafficking victims look like, where they are from, what their relationship is like, etc. But these assumptions may not be true. Below are some facts about human trafficking:
Traffickers are not always strangers to the trafficking victims. Often, they are acquaintances or family members.
Traffickers can be any age, gender, race, or nationality.
Human trafficking doesn’t require that someone is transported to another place or across borders.
Trafficking doesn’t always include kidnapping or being held hostage. It often includes psychological manipulation.
Traffickers use abusive cycles of power and control over the victim.
Anyone of any gender can be a victim of sex trafficking, though most victims are female.
Individuals, especially youth, who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ+) can be vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking if they lack strong support networks and resources.
Minors cannot legally consent to commercial sex acts, even if it doesn’t involve force, fraud, or coercion. If someone below the age of 18 is asked to perform a commercial sex act, they are automatically considered victims of human trafficking.
Labor trafficking doesn’t just happen in illegal or underground industries, it can happen at restaurants, construction, farms, factories, etc.
For more facts about human trafficking, visit the National Human Trafficking hotline’s website at: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/.
While there isn’t one definition of what a trafficker or human trafficking victim looks like, traffickers often look for vulnerabilities that they can exploit or utilize such as:
Having unstable housing
Facing poverty or economic need
Experience of previous forms of violence or abuse
Involvement in the child welfare system or juvenile justice system
Struggles with substance use
Undocumented or not a US citizen
Sex and labor trafficking is never okay, no matter what the relationship is between the trafficker and the trafficking victim. An individual’s circumstances or history should never lead to a loss of freedom. If you are a victim or want to help someone who might be a victim, call the Salvation Army’s New Day to Stop Trafficking Hotline at: (267) 838-5866 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at: 1-888-373-7888 to get connected to help.
What you can do
If you or someone you know might be a victim or survivor of human trafficking, there are local resources that can help, including:
The Salvation Army’s New Day to Stop Trafficking Program is a multi-faceted program that serves survivors of sex and labor trafficking. For more information, call the New Day Hotline at: (267) 838-5866.
WOAR Philadelphia Sexual Violence Hotline has a 24/7 confidential hotline at: (215) 985-3333 for information and connection to counseling for survivors.
Use the Provider Guide for Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking found at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60b64165f2978c553bac5607/t/631a46687ae4ed5425d6b411/1662666344971/SS_Toolkit_HumanTrafficking_R3.pdf to learn more about how to identify and support your clients/patients.
Donate items for trafficking survivors:
Throughout the month of January, the Philadelphia Commission for Women in collaboration with WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence will be collecting personal care items to be distributed to survivors of human trafficking.
The donation drive is accepting full-sized items from the following list:
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo and conditioner
Soap and body wash
Small paperback books of inspiration
Nail polish and cosmetics
Personal care wipes
Lip balm or Chapstick
Underwear and bras
Sanitary pads or tampons
Hair combs and brushes
Donations can be dropped off at:
Office of Public Engagement
City Hall Room 115
Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They are accepting donations through January 31, 2023.
For additional information, contact: [email protected].