SEATTLE, Washington — Though often thought of as a bygone issue, slavery remains a dire problem in the modern world. Human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry, with more than 40 million people finding themselves enslaved across the globe. Now, as internet usage spikes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders keep many trapped with their abusers, women and children are even more vulnerable to abuse and internet trafficking. That is why it is more important than ever to find ways to be an at-home-advocate against human trafficking. Here is how to help.
Educating Children on Internet Safety
The internet is often a favored tool of human traffickers. Not only does it allow them to reach directly into the homes of their victims, but many parents also lack the knowledge needed to effectively safeguard their children from predators. Social media is especially dangerous in this regard. Frequently, young children can be made to believe they are interacting with a friend or someone trustworthy. This makes it easier for traffickers to lure them into sending pictures and other private information.
Thus, knowing the warning signs and how to discuss the topic with children is essential to combatting internet trafficking. A great resource for educating children in that regard is Shared Hope International’s Internet Safety Guide. This comprehensive guide provides ways to talk to children about how a wide range of related topics. This includes how to be careful on the internet, the tactics of potential traffickers, warning signs and more.
Learning About Victims and Survivors
For many, the reality of human trafficking can be difficult to fathom. While most are familiar with the issue as a concept, in many cases, a lack of visibility for victims makes it difficult for the public to truly empathize. That is why it is essential to put a face behind the statistics. Not only does is it make the issue real in a way that people can understand, but it also highlights the needs and experiences of the victims.
One great resource in this regard is International Justice Mission’s (IJM) website. Under the stories tab, one can find the stories of survivors that have been rescued from human trafficking and learn more about what slavery looks like today. Non-fiction can also be a great tool to build empathy and understanding for victims. Books such as “Girls Like Us” detail the lives of those affected by human trafficking in a way that is both thoroughly researched and compelling.
Contacting local representatives from Congress takes little effort and can have an incredible impact on policy. After all, congressional offices keep a tally of what issues their constituents are contacting them about. If elected officials notice many constituents concerned about the government’s policies toward human trafficking, it makes it that much more likely that they will act. At-home-advocates can contact their representatives through email, phone and mail. In many cases, it takes no longer than a few minutes to make a difference.
Throughout 2019, IJM mobilized thousands of Americans to reach out to Congress about foreign aid aimed at combating human trafficking. As a result, Congress increased funding, saving many lives in the process. However, while mobilizing larger groups can be a great way to get the attention of representatives, even a small effort can have a large impact. In many cases, even as few as seven people calling in can convince a congressional representative to support a bill.
Become an Informed Consumer
The products that the public chooses to buy can also have an important impact on human trafficking. Although it is infeasible to trace every product or purchase back to its origins, it is possible to become an effective at-home-advocate against human trafficking by becoming an informed consumer.
One way consumers can support ethical brands is by looking for the fair trade certification on a product’s packaging. If present, this label ensures that fair labor conditions and wages were present in the manufacturing process. By buying products like coffee and chocolate with the label present, consumers can support companies that are doing their part to prevent human trafficking.
Finally, mobile app developers have also begun to design ways to make it easier for consumers to shop ethically. ILAB’s Sweat and Toil app allows consumers to browse by good or country in order to see if coerced labor went into the product’s development. Similarly, for fashion aficionados, Good on You rates companies based on how they treat employees, animals and the environment. Saying no to companies that facilitate unethical labor is essential to standing up against human trafficking.
It can be difficult to feel like an effective advocate while in quarantine. However, learning more about what one can do to fight human trafficking is a great use of this time. By educating loved ones on the warning signs, learning the stories of victims and survivors, contacting representatives and becoming informed consumers, everyone has the power to be an effective at-home-advocate against human trafficking.
– Megan McKeough