Slavery Never Ended

Photo courtesy of University of Central Florida.

Photo courtesy of University of Central Florida.

Ashley Kim, Editor-in-Chief

You could be fueling the third largest international crime industry without knowing it.  You could be playing a role, however small, in the enslavement of a human being.  You might be contributing to human trafficking unknowingly, and that’s terrifying.  It’s appalling.  It frightens me, because it doesn’t take malicious intent or full awareness to be a part of human trafficking.  But we can make change.

It’s difficult to put a number on human trafficking victims, and reliable statistics are hard to come by, but several sources put victims in the tens of millions―likely twenty to thirty million.

Beyond the numbers, it’s important to acknowledge the sheer scale of the problem: human trafficking extends from Asia to North America, spanning the entire world.  It comes in several forms, from forced labor to sex trafficking, to domestic servitude, forced marriage, child soldiers, and organ harvesting.  Trafficking is not just the act of moving people across borders or forcing them into prostitution; it comes in many forms, but they all have one thing in common: exploiting people through deception, coercion, or force.

It doesn’t matter where you live.  In Thailand, human trafficking might come in the form of sex trafficking, but in America, often trafficking is much more discrete, like forcing unknowing immigrants into domestic servitude.  We have to realize that human trafficking is a global issue, but more than that, something that can occur in many different forms.  And doing that is scary; it’s frightening to realize just how wide and powerful human trafficking is, how hopeless the situation seems.  All the NGOs and police in the world can’t rescue twenty million people.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that that’s near impossible.

It can’t be done alone.  But as nothing more than citizens, we can’t organize raids and arrest traffickers and rescue victims.  I wish I could tell you that if we all paid a little more attention to what we buy and eat and see, we could end human trafficking for good.  I don’t know if we can ever end human trafficking for good but we can’t let go of that goal.

It starts with awareness.  You know what human trafficking is; now learn where your produce came from, who made your clothes.  Did you know that knock-off luxury items fuel the trafficking industry?  Invest in sustainable fashion.  Do your research.  You don’t have to be an expert, but learn to be a conscientious buyer.

Spread the word.  You have a voice where human trafficking victims don’t.  You have networks and connections of people.  Your voice does help.  It takes knowledge to create action.  And in an age of both apathy and ignorance, it takes persistence and passion to really make a difference.

And finally, don’t stop learning.  We forget that human trafficking occurs in America.  We forget that human trafficking is a complex issue that goes from massage parlors to households.  Take the time to learn the signs of human trafficking.  Learn when and where to be suspicious, and how you can help, even if all you can do is call 911.  Don’t look away.

I know that human trafficking is one of those things that feels so distant.  I’ve been to Thailand with an organization fighting child trafficking; I’ve met children who escaped the industry.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully understand what human trafficking is; not on the level that victims do.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand their hopelessness, or pain, or fear.  Human trafficking exists everywhere, and yet it seems worlds away.

But our humanity is what unites us, and though I may never be able to fully grasp the extent of human trafficking, I can understand my small, insignificant role in it.  And I can understand that however small I am in the shadow of such a tragic world, a single life is worth an entire fight.

I am not a member of the police, or a part of an organization.  I have no human trafficking stories of my own to share.  But I am just beginning to realize how fortunate I am to have a voice; to have freedom, and a life before me.  There are some in this world who don’t.

So we do what we can, because together we can do a lot.