By Alessandra Bryant, Communications Associate
Last year, the month of January was declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, highlighting the 20-year anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Although much has been done to improve victim assistance, prosecute traffickers, support survivors, and bring attention to the issue in the last 20 years, human trafficking is on the rise with the number of trafficking victims tripling between 2008 and 2019.
Human Trafficking, also known as Modern Day Slavery, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or sexual acts and can happen to anyone and affect any community regardless of age, race, gender, or nationality. It can also happen within and across borders, and even in our own neighborhoods. However, women, girls, and people of color are especially susceptible to this crime. Although there are no definitive statistics on how many people of color are survivors of human trafficking, we do know that minorities are much more susceptible to the false promises that lure them into trafficking due to prevailing inequalities. Additionally, women and girls of color are more likely to be identified as criminals rather than victims of domestic sex trafficking due to racial biases in policing, which may explain why there are not enough definitive statistics available on the associations between race and human trafficking.
At the YWCA, we work every day to demand a world of equity and human decency, envisioning a world of opportunity for women, girls, and people of color. As part of our efforts to confront human trafficking, YWCA local associations across the U.S. are providing survivors with temporary and permanent housing, financial assistance, assistance with seeking employment, sanctuaries of safety and security, and opportunities to reintegrate into their communities and rebuild.
YWCA Bucks County has been working for the last two years on providing human trafficking awareness education. Because of the association’s proximity to Route 1 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, they have become a large part of their county’s human trafficking efforts, says Executive Director Guillaume “Gee” Stewart. Due to their ongoing efforts, the Bucks Country Housing Department recently provided them a property to use as a safe house for survivors of human trafficking, which will be placing its first residents in February.
The Domestic Violence Shelter and Services team at YWCA Greater Memphis is empowering trafficking survivors to take control of their lives and offering them with the safety and resources necessary to become self-sufficient. The Safe at Home program protects the identity of survivors from their traffickers and abusers by providing safe alternative housing, helping them replace essential legal documents discreetly, and provides hotline services.
Lastly, YWCA Northeast Kansas’ Center for Safety and Empowerment has been supporting survivors of human trafficking in the Shawnee, Jackson, and Wabaunsee counties of Kansas since 2014 –providing shelter, clean clothes, and a computer lab where survivors can access online courses and telehealth services.
In communities across the country, YWCA is working to answer the cry for justice by empowering survivors of human trafficking to rebuild their lives and providing accessible resources so they may escape bondage. You can join the movement by learning more about how to spot the signs of human trafficking or by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 if you suspect someone may be a victim or a trafficker.