On July 30, we honor World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Statistics vary, but an estimated 24.9 – 40 million slaves exist around the world. This form of modern-day slavery exists because of greed, the demand for sex, pornography, and because we want cheaper products.

The first step is awareness, and then action. With enough awareness, could changes happen to end this affront to human dignity?

I believe most people are not even aware that many of their products purchased on a regular basis are from slave labor. We may have heard about child labor and unfair working conditions, but we go about our everyday lives oblivious that our products we purchase have been produced by actual slaves.

The concept is so foreign that during our Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force presentations, when I ask the question, “How many slaves work for you?” I will get maybe one or two people who raise their hand. The fact is, everyone should raise their hand. If you purchase coffee, chocolate, seafood, clothes, cars, cell phones, jewelry and more, then most likely you have slaves working for you.

Visit www.slaveryfootprint.org/ to learn more and find out how many slaves work for you. It may be more than you think!

We may recall our history lessons, where slaves are shackled and work on plantations to benefit affluent plantation owners, and we may think “thank God those days, don’t exist anymore.” Yet, there are more slaves today than during the Transatlantic Slave Trade 200 years ago. Gone are the shackles, we would have seen so long ago, replaced by the invisible chains of modern-day slavery.

It’s not just happening on a global level, but right here in the United States, where there are an estimated 400,000 victims of human trafficking. People brought from other countries with a promise of a job or better pay can often find themselves in a much different situation. It happens to farm workers, construction workers, domestic workers. It happens in the hotel industry, in massage parlors and nail salons. It happens in plain sight.

According to Polaris Project, more than 32,000 cases of human trafficking documented between December 2007 and December 2016 through its operation of the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline were analyzed, and 25 types of human trafficking in the United States were identified. To learn more about these types of human trafficking, click here: https://polarisproject.org/typology.

Here’s how it happens…the promise of a better life, better pay and the American dream is very alluring to those coming from poor or low-income communities. However, their dreams quickly turn into nightmares, as that promise never materializes. Instead they find themselves in debt bondage or sexual slavery.

Once victims of human trafficking come into our country, they are forced to turn over any passports or documentation they may have. They are told they owe transportation fees and have to work to pay it off. From there, they are then told they need to pay for housing, food and toiletries. They become enslaved in debt bondage, from which they will never truly pay off. Women who are forced to work as sex slaves are often promised a job such as a waitress in a restaurant but then find themselves held captive and forced to service men 15-20 times a day in a brothel instead.

One of the first human trafficking cases in the early 90s occurred in Ocoee, Florida in Orange County. Young women from Mexico were lured here with the promise of a job and better life and were forced to live in a trailer park as part of a sex trafficking ring. Often, they or their family members are threatened back home. In this case, two sisters were separated, and they threatened the life of the other sister if they did not do what they were told. Several times, the victims were able to call 911 but because of language barriers, they were not rescued because when law enforcement arrived only the trafficker was able to communicate with authorities.

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. To learn more about common indicators click here. To learn more about human trafficking, click here.

To report suspected human trafficking, call 866-347-2423 or 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

By Christine Commerce, Human Trafficking Coordinator – July 2019