January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Ken Liu

Of all the evils that break God’s heart, human trafficking, especially of children, has got to be on the top of the list.

Although institutional slavery was abolished in the U.S. by the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, slavery in other forms is actually on the rise today. In 2019, 11,500 cases of human trafficking in the United States were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Of those, 22% of the victims were under the age of 18. And because trafficking cases are believed to be severely underreported, the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

The U.S. not only faces a problem of foreign victims trafficked into the country, but our own American children are commonly recruited and exploited for commercial sex. Traffickers manipulate children using physical, emotional, and psychological abuse to keep them trapped in a life of prostitution. It is not uncommon for traffickers to beat, rape, or torture their victims.

Forced labor, another form of human trafficking, is also a bigger problem in the U.S. than people realize. Victims are found in both legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and domestic service.

And contrary to popular belief, trafficking victims are not only immigrants or the poor, but increasingly come from all socioeconomic groups, including middle class white suburban youth who are lured or manipulated into traffic rings right under our noses.

What can Christian Legal Aid attorneys do to help? Trafficking survivors often face legal obstacles after being exploited, including criminal record impediments, family law obstacles, and immigration challenges. To learn more, watch CLS' webinar here


Resources

The Joseph Project.  Inspired by the Biblical story of Joseph's story out of slavery, the mission of The Joseph Project is to connect human trafficking survivors with skilled pro bono legal counsel. By leveraging the law, The Joseph Project empowers the enslaved, addressing the legal consequences of commercial exploitation and transitioning survivors toward an empowered future. As a faith-based program, The Joseph Project provides survivors with both civil legal services as well as spiritual and social support. To learn more or to join their national network of pro bono attorneys, check out their website or contact them at info@josephproject.com.

Legal resources for trafficking victims.  Human have a wide range of civil legal needs depending on their personal circumstances and the trafficking situation they endured. Common legal needs include: 
- Civil lawsuits against their perpetrators
- Protective orders to keep perpetrators away
- Help obtaining public benefits
- Expungements for unjust prostitution convictions

To learn more check out these resources from the Dept. of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

Resources for pro bono lawyers serving trafficking survivors. The legal needs of human trafficking survivors are many, but few attorneys have the experience or tools to help.  The Human Trafficking Legal Center provides training, technical assistance, and legal research for attorneys and law firms willing to handle pro bono matters for trafficking survivors. Contact techsupport@htlegalcenter.org for more information.

How to spot signs of trafficking.  Traficking victims are everywhere, often right in plain sight. Legal aid attorneys and others who serve the poor can help spot trafficking victims by learning to recognize the signs of trafficking and being aware of situations they might be in, such as:

  • Feeling pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave

  • Owing money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed

  • Not having control of their passport or other identity documents

  • Appearing to be monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others 

Human trafficking hotline. If you know of someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Better to take action and be wrong, than to be hesitant and let a victim continue to suffer.