January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

This is a national effort to help raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking taking place our world today, both globally and close to home. In 2007 the U.S. Senate designated Jan. 11 as the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, and in 2010 President Obama officially declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Human trafficking is a global problem. By definition, it includes force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It’s important we promote awareness and prevention of both labor and sexual slavery, though the National Center on Sexual Exploitation specifically addresses the issue of sex trafficking.

Statistics vary greatly on whether victims number in the millions or hundreds of millions largely because it’s a crime which commonly exists underground making it difficult to accurately calculate. Whatever the exact number may be, even one enslaved person is one too many.

Victims of human trafficking can fit into any demographic – they can be male or female, of any age. These warning signs are not all-inclusive, yet they may be helpful in identifying those who could possibly be coerced — under the age of 18 and performing commercial sex; lack of control over personal ID, including passport; giving their money to a manager or pimp, which may be male or female; owes a large debt and works to pay it off; confused about what city or state they are currently in; avoids looking people in the eye and may seem nervous or depressed; and they may show signs of physical abuse and not be allowed to seek medical treatment alone.

Human trafficking can take place anywhere but it’s helpful to be especially alert in places such as gas stations, rest stops, airports, hotels and motels.

To report suspected human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is available 24-7, 365 days of the year. Callers may remain anonymous and reports are kept confidential. Assistance can be provided in more than 200 languages. In 2017, there were 4,460 cases of human trafficking in the U.S. and U.S. Territories reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Healthcare professionals are in a unique position to identify victims. It’s important to assess and recognize victims and be aware of resources to help in these situations. For more information about human trafficking, check out the RN.com course Human Trafficking: Implications for Healthcare Professionals.

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the functional values of society.” — Pope Francis

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