February 1st, America’s National Freedom Day: a day to celebrate the end of slavery…or so we thought!
152 years ago on February 1st of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment banning slavery in the United States. On this day every year, we rejoice and reflect on America’s freedom. We promote and acknowledge all that our country has worked towards in forming a more perfect union. President Barack Obama selected January as Nation Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, ending with National Freedom Day on the first of February. While we must recognize the growth and progress that our nation has made, we cannot ignore many of those still trapped in slavery today. Before becoming an intern at Care House, I had no idea how prevalent slavery still is in America. I didn’t think slavery was still an issue. Boy, was I wrong!
Brace yourself for some disheartening statistics that you may not see in your everyday life—I know I didn’t! According to UNICEF, human trafficking subjects children, women, and men to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. This horrific practice can include prostitution, pornography, and sex tourism as well as labor for domestic service, factory or construction work, and migrant farming. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, with the highest numbers of reports coming from California, Texas, Florida and New York. In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received 7,572 reports of human trafficking cases. Of those reports, 2,387 (31.5%) involved a minor (under the age of 18) and 5,551 (73.3%) were sex trafficking.
When I was exposed to these statistics and learned of the traumatic experiences of those sold in human trafficking, I wanted to do everything and anything I could to help. But being only one person, how much of an impact could I really have? If you feel the same way I do, you’re not alone. Even by reading this post, you’re making an impact. Being educated and aware of these horrible acts is a great step in the right direction! Now share what you’ve learned and spread awareness that slavery is not completely eliminated. There’s a wide variety of resources on human trafficking and organizations to check out. Below is a short list of just a couple of the many resources you can access:
- End Trafficking Project | UNICEF - https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/protect/trafficking/end
- Polaris Project | NHTRC- https://polarisproject.org/
- Human Trafficking Prevention Toolkit | AbolitionistMom - https://abolitionistmom.org/
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women | CATW - http://www.catwinternational.org/
- Slavery Footprint | http://slaveryfootprint.org/
If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/ to learn more.