Human Trafficking

A crime that involves force, fraud or coercion to compel someone to engage in labor or commercial sex.

Human Trafficking“[Human trafficking] is slavery in the modern age… Every year thousands of people, mainly women and children, are exploited by criminals who use them for forced labor or the sex trade. No country is immune. Almost all play a part, either as a source of trafficked people, transit point or destination.” — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “Fact: there are more individuals in  slavery today than there were during the height of the trans-atlantic slave trade.” — www.polarisproject.org

Where does human trafficking occur? Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar criminal industry that victimizes and denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. Individuals are stripped of their basic human rights and dignities. Vulnerable men, women, and children are exploited by predators who make financial gains off the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable individuals. This is not an issue that only occurs in third-world countries half a globe away. It’s happening in Philadelphia neighborhoods and in Bucks County communities to people of all ages. It is our responsibility as socially conscious members of the worldwide community to raise awareness and STOP human trafficking. The time is now.

Human trafficking is occurring right here in Bucks County. See video below.

What is human trafficking? According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 as amended, human trafficking includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or other services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. It includes sex trafficking, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the victim is under 18 years of age.

How does this affect my life and community? Human trafficking focuses on the exploitation of vulnerable people for monetary gain by the trafficker. Therefore, it can be found in any labor and service sector. Cases where trafficking have been found include nail salons, massage/illicit spas, cleaning services, farms, independent contractors, hotels, and commercial sex trade through the Internet or on the streets, and domestic servitude involving housekeepers and nannies. Pennsylvania residents are not immune to this global issue; in 2017 alone, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received 562 phone calls on their hotline from Pennsylvania. The NHTRC is a program of The Polaris  Project, www.polarisproject.org, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working exclusively on the issue of  human trafficking. NHTRC staff takes tips about potential situations of human trafficking and facilitates reporting to specialized human trafficking task forces, federal authorities, local law enforcement, and service providers throughout the country.

How can I recognize human trafficking in my community?

Some signs to look for include:

  • Inability for employee to come or go from work as he/she wishes, or speak for his/herself.
  • Employees live very close by or in the same building where they are employed, employees live together, they travel in groups in  transportation provided by the employer, or employees do not seem to be leaving the place of employment at the end of their shifts/work day.
  • Nervousness or unease when the topic of law enforcement is mentioned
  • Nervousness or unease when questions about their background, immigration status, or where they live or come from.
  • Signs of physical neglect or malnutrition.
  • Indication of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical  restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Unable to communicate either because of language barriers or disabilities or because it seems they are being watched.
  • Seem to be unsure where they are – seem disoriented.
  • Have been to numerous places in a very short amount of time.

If I see a victim, what is a safe way to offer help?

Do not involve yourself personally as you may compromise the safety of the person you are trying to help. The safest way to help is to report your concerns to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888 or your local police station.  NHTRC is a  national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the  country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. All calls and on-line reports are confidential. You may also text them at BeFree (233733). If it appears that a victim is in immediate danger, call 911.

What can I do in my community to raise awareness and help prevent trafficking?

JOIN BCAT (in Bucks County) or support advocacy groups about helping victims. Some groups in the Bucks and Greater Philadelphia communities  include Dawn’s Place and Covenant House.

SHARE your knowledge of human trafficking–talk with your friends, family and classmates about the issues and how they can become involved in raising awareness and supporting victims.

LEARN more about legislation proposed in Pennsylvania that can help victims and ask your legislator to support the bills. Find your Pennsylvania state legislator here. The Polaris Project provides information about policy advocacy in the United States. Women Graduates USA raises awareness about trafficking of women and girls worldwide.

What  can I do to help prevent trafficking on a global scale?

STOP the Human Trafficking Slavery Supply Chain by making conscious decisions as a consumer.

RESEARCH your favorite brands to see if they partake in either child labor or labor abuse in general and buy fair trade products.

SUPPORT international organizations like the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women www.catwinternational.org, International Justice Mission www.ijm.org, and Free the Slaves www.freetheslaves.net. Remember that YOU can prevent trafficking.

If you are a victim of trafficking call NOVA for support and options at 1-800-675-6900.