Human trafficking is often something that people shy away from talking about because it evokes strong emotions and thoughts, and can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. At our weekly Incubator Meeting on March 29, Amherst Community Connections was lucky enough to have Jessica Berger speak out about the warning signs of human trafficking and what we as individuals can do if we believe we see some of these signs or symptoms.
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” was a constant theme that directed our thoughts during this difficult conversation. It is important to remember that we can all make a difference, and even though the problem may seem overwhelming, we all have the ability to do something to help. The first step to helping those who may be victims of human trafficking is to raise awareness. It is important to open up the conversation about what is happening all around us, and attempt to dismantle the stigma that is often associated with this topic.
So what exactly is human trafficking and how does it happen? Human trafficking can be defined as, “a form of modern slavery – a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world.” Human trafficking does not discriminate, it affects people of all genders, ages, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, and races. There is no one way that people become victims of human trafficking, but there are some more common methods to be aware of. One such way is though what is referred to as ‘boyfriending.’ Boyfriending occurs when a trafficker engages in a relationship with someone, often spending a long time making the victim feel as though they can trust them while at the same time removing the victim from their family and friends. Once the victim is cut off from their support systems, the trafficker turns the tables and victims are forced into slavery. Other ways people fall victim to human trafficking is through jobs that offer high wages or benefits. These jobs often seem too good to be true, and more often than not, that is the case. Victims are asked to meet with the interviewer and abducted or asked to sign faulty paperwork.
There are many signs and symptoms to be aware of when you believe someone may be a victim of trafficking. These signs include not being able to leave work, being indebted to someone, being afraid of law enforcement, avoiding eye contact, signs of physical abuse, not being allowed to speak for themselves and not being in control of their money. It is important to keep in mind that if someone if only exhibiting one of these signs, it does not necessarily mean that they are a victim of human trafficking.
It is crucial to be proactive about reporting suspicious activity when you see it by calling human trafficking hotlines or reporting to the police. We cannot begin to further crack down on this heinous crime without the help of each and every individual. By being aware of our surroundings and educating others about what is happening, we can free the millions of people who are currently enslaved.
By: Lauren White