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  • Elizabeth Busch

Student Advocate for Human Rights

When you hear the phrase “human trafficking,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine people being forced into labor or sex slavery far away from here. In reality, human trafficking occurs almost everywhere in the world, including the US.

What Is Human Trafficking?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, as “the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” When people are trafficked, they are forced to accompany and obey a trafficker through violence, threats, psychological abuse or tricks. Most trafficking victims are forced into sexual slavery, but others perform forced labor, enter arranged marriages or have their organs harvested.

Who Is Involved?

Essentially every country in the world participates in human trafficking, and people of all backgrounds can be victims. The UNODC surveyed 155 countries and found that, on average, nearly one in five trafficking victims are under 18. However, in some countries, children make up almost all trafficking victims. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the US has hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors and there are around 40.3 million victims worldwide. While trafficking happens in every part of the country, from the most remote rural areas to densely populated cities, children who are experiencing homelessness or who have run away from home are at a higher risk for trafficking.

What Can We Do?

Human trafficking is a complicated issue and while many government agencies, international unions and nonprofit organizations are working to end it, the industry continues to flourish. Still, there are many ways that ordinary people can help to end this human rights abuse. Donating to groups such as Polaris and Free for Life International helps fund rehabilitation, work and housing opportunities and therapy for survivors. Human rights organizations such as Catholic Relief Services also have branches dedicated to rescuing and caring for survivors.

In addition to donating, another key way to fight human trafficking is to educate yourself and others about the issue. Watching documentaries, reading survivors’ testimonies and learning about the industries that benefit from human trafficking help to raise awareness about this issue and increase the chances that victims get the help they need. The above organizations all offer educational resources online.

Finally, keep your eyes open, especially when you’re in transit areas such as gas stations, train stops and airports. Some of the most common signs of trafficking include bruises or other marks of violence, disorientation or confusion, wariness of others, extreme deference to another person and unstable living conditions. If you think that someone is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

This article is submitted and sponsored by Student Advocates for Human Rights, a student organization on campus that fights for equality, justice and the rights of every human. Email Shahanaaz Soumah ( to become involved in this organization


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