As January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month, I want to ask you, what comes to mind when you hear the words “human trafficking?” If you are like most Americans, your awareness is very vague and based on movies like "Taken." Most people who are trafficked in the United States are not kidnapped. In fact, most individuals who are trafficked know their perpetrators.
So what exactly is human trafficking? It is modern day slavery. According to the U.S. State Department, there are 49.6 million people enslaved in the world today. Human Trafficking is a 150-billion-dollar global criminal enterprise and the 2nd fastest growing criminal industry second to drugs. Human traffickers can be anyone, and anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers are often someone the victim is familiar with or someone the victim met on the internet who became “their friend.” Traffickers are relentless in their attempts to manipulate vulnerable victims into trusting them to sexually exploit or traffick them.
According to the federal government, human trafficking falls into two categories: Labor and Sex Trafficking. The federal definition of human trafficking is when perpetrators use force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts from their victims. The federal definition of child trafficking is any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform any type of commercial sex or labor act, or who is commercially sexually exploited for something of value: money, shelter, drugs, or transportation. A minor is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion can be proven.
One of the common tools traffickers use to lure and manipulate vulnerable children, youth, and adults is grooming. Grooming can occur either in person or online. Here are six typical stages of the grooming process for sex trafficking: (Labor trafficking will look different).
Human trafficking is a horrific crime that is hidden in plain sight. It is tearing at the social fabric of our society. Human trafficking won’t end until we as a society stop the cycle by removing the demand for sexual content and activities that lead to sexual exploitation and trafficking. The Newaygo Human Trafficking Task Force is committed to helping combat this horrific crime that is happening to our vulnerable children, youth, and adults in our communities, backyards, and even in our homes. Please join our efforts to stop this evil crime. Too many people say, “It’s not happening here!” or “Too dark to talk about it.” The reality is when good men do nothing, evil persists and prevails.
Please join our fight by becoming informed and involved. Here are some resources you can learn more about human trafficking and ways to help. Read our Facebook posts, learn about the pros and dangers of social media apps and gaming devices and parental safety controls on Protect Young Eyes ; research and watch free training videos on websites such as A21.org , the Blue Campaign | Homeland Security , and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ; do not allow your child to sleep with their electronic devices and delay social media Wait Until 8th Grade Campaign . Share what you have learned about human trafficking with family and others. Also, we will be hosting a Human Trafficking 101 Community Seminar at the Grant Fine Arts Center this spring. Please be on the lookout for the time and date of this event.
Report Human Trafficking! If you see something, say something! Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline # 888-378-7888 or text BE FREE 233733.
You can also call local resources like the Newaygo County Sheriff's Department 231-689-7303, The Hope Project 231-747-8555, Silent Observer 231-652-1121, or call #911.
Teresa Fetterley, LLP, LSC Newaygo County Human Trafficking Task Force, Chair
Jamie Presler, Board Vice-Chair
Mary Suplinskas, Board Secretary
Gena Dietz, Board Member
Lisa Piccard, Board Member
Tabatha Lathrop, Board Member
Ashley Luchies, Board Member
Kevin Akin, Board Member
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