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Human Trafficking is Happening Here

Judie Stilman July 29, 2021

Human trafficking is happening here. And it can look much different than you might imagine. For starters, you may think that human trafficking only happens in low to middle income countries. In fact, the control and exploitation of human beings for profit happens in more than 100 countries. It even happens in highly advanced nations like the US. 

We’ll share some of the red flags of human trafficking and ways to prevent it. But first, to understand the scope of the problem, consider these facts from the U.S. Department of State

  • Traffickers take in $150 billion a year global profits from human trafficking
  • $99 billion a year in profits from commercial sexual exploitation alone
  • 20 to 40 million people around the world are estimated to be enslaved
  • 71% of victims are women and girls

It’s important to note that the crime of human trafficking can be perpetrated by a variety of groups and individuals. These include vast international networks, as well as employers, recruiters, strangers, or even family members. Clearly, ending human trafficking will require the cooperation of governments, NGOs, international organizations, local governments, the private sector, and survivors of trafficking.

Fighting human trafficking in our own backyard

For example, in San Diego, California, trafficking is about an $810 million dollar a year industry. In addition, there are approximately 3,400 people who are currently being exploited sexually in the region. With this in mind, one San Diego based nonprofit organization is deploying several programs to combat human trafficking through prevention education efforts. Project Concern International, a Global Communities Partner (PCI), helps to strengthen vulnerable communities both locally and around the world. In San Diego, PCI improves the health of moms & babies; strengthens food and housing security; fights human trafficking; and implements programs to strengthen community health, including COVID-19 emergency response programming. Furthermore, they have joined forces with other local agencies to fight human trafficking through the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective.

In a recent study, researchers reveal insights about youth who are most vulnerable. They also share the manipulative tactics traffickers use to recruit their victims. The average age of entry into trafficking for a youth in San Diego is 14 to16. In a survey of local high schools across the county, PCI found that 20 out of 20 schools reported that recruitment was taking place on campus.

Teaching kids how to be safe

In 2013 PCI launched a youth after-school program called Project ROOTS for kids ages 8 to 13. This peer mentorship program aims to build self-esteem and educate children about gender-based violence, healthy relationships, online and social media safety. It also teaches youth how to differentiate between someone who might take advantage of them, and who is a safe person they can talk to. 

PCI and Project ROOTS are a component of the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective.  Other partners include the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, PROTECT from 3Strands Global and kNOw MORE from Point Loma Nazarene University.  PROTECT provides prevention education to teachers in order to safeguard children and recognize red flag indicators in students.  kNOw MORE is an interactive, live drama to empower middle and high school students. It also instructs teens to recognize potentially dangerous situations and how to respond. 

Stopping traffickers from recruiting online

Equally important is the need to teach internet safety. With children spending so much time online during the pandemic, there is a growing trend of traffickers using online social media platforms to recruit young victims. This is especially true for youth who are vulnerable and seeking validation.

“We know a lot of kids are at home right now. Many are on the internet, unsupervised, and utilizing webcams. It’s vital to reach parents and teachers with relevant and practical information to keep our children safe.”   

Hannah Allen – PCI

Know the Red Flags of Human Trafficking

What are some of the human trafficking red flags that can help parents protect their kids, particularly preteen and teenage children? Take note when your kids are feeling withdrawn. Look at Instagram and other social platforms where young women are seeking validation. Notice those who want to be seen, heard and told they are special. Parents should definitely monitor minors when they’re on the internet, and should also have passwords to their preteen and teenage children’s social media. 

The latest effort to build awareness and involve the San Diego community is E3 Alliance: Employers Ending Exploitation. E3 is a multi-tiered, three-step approach to sex trafficking education and prevention. Businesses from both the public and private sector are invited to become E3 partners. The program educates employers to reduce risk of sex trafficking within their company. It also asks them to take a stand against illicit activity. Businesses also get opportunities to partner with local nonprofits and to qualify to provide safe long-term employment for survivors of trafficking.

Human exploitation and modern-day slavery is a crime against humanity that demands the attention of everyone, from global organizations to local citizens. Please join us in the fight to end human trafficking in all its forms.

For help call the Human Trafficking Hotline: call 1-888-373-7888, text 233733, or chat online

Click here to donate to PCI

Watch our FB Live interview with Hanna Allen (PCI) hosted by Leena Patidar (Coin Up) to learn more about preventing human trafficking.

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