National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January 2022 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, as decreed by an annual presidential proclamation that began in 2010. January is also known as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This month is a key time for us all as individuals to take the time to educate ourselves about human trafficking and learn to spot the signs of trafficking. It is also a time for us to share this information with our workplaces, our churches, our schools, our representatives and our communities.

If you commit to doing just one thing to mark National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month this year, the single best action you can take is to learn how to spot the signs of trafficking. Much still needs to be done to make the public aware of what trafficking is and what it looks like. Human trafficking takes many forms: it can look like forced labor, or involuntary servitude, especially on vulnerable groups. It can also be sex trafficking, or commercial sex acts using force, fraud or coercion. With the ongoing pandemic, advocates warn that online grooming, the process a human trafficker uses to identify and later control people with the intention of trafficking, has increased.

Modern slavery is happening in our communities today – being able to spot the signs and know what to do could make a life-changing difference. You might walk past or speak to someone who needs help without even realizing it. Help spread the word about the signs to look out for.

General indicators include:

  • Houses or flats with too many people, all picked up or dropped off at the same time
  • People who seem scared, confused or have untreated injuries
  • Few or no documents, or someone else in control of their documents / passport
  • No control over their own post/mail, no phone or phone held by someone else
  • Low or no pay
  • One person speaking on behalf of many others, who may avoid eye contact or conversation
  • Lights on at workplaces at strange times – are people living there?
  • Feel they are in debt to someone
  • Limited freedom of movement and dependency on others
  • Fear of police/authorities
  • Fear of a trafficker, believing their life or families’ lives are at risk if they escape or complain
  • Anxious and unwilling to tell others about their situation
  • Poor health, malnutrition or untreated dental conditions
  • Bruising; signs of other physical or psychological trauma including anxiety, confusion, memory loss
  • Less often, someone believing they are being controlled through witchcraft

Note: Those affected are unlikely to self-identify as a ‘victim’ and may not realize or accept they are being controlled.

If you believe you may have information about a possible trafficking situation or want to learn more, you can reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in various ways:

Local Physician and Advocate

HEAL Trafficking LogoBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard’s very own Dr. Hanni Stoklosa is co-founder and CEO of HEAL Trafficking. HEAL is an integrated network of over 3,800 survivors and multidisciplinary professionals in 45 countries dedicated to ending human trafficking and supporting its survivors, from a health perspective. Some of the areas HEAL works on are advocacy, education & training and research. Contact HEAL to volunteer or learn more.

Everyone can help by learning the types of trafficking and by paying attention to the people around us. Countway Cares ... about preventing human trafficking.