Opposing Modern Slavery

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized annually in the United States on January 11. The purpose is to bring attention and opposition to human trafficking and modern-day slavery (neo-slavery).

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Although focused on the same issue and committed to the same end, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a day separate and distinct from the United Nations' World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

The United States Senate established National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in 2007 to raise awareness in the United States about human trafficking and national slavery because modern slavery is not something that just occurs in other countries.

In the Senate Resolution establishing Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the U.S. refuses to let human trafficking exist in the United States and around the world and commits to actively oppose all individuals, groups, organizations, and nations who support, advance, or commit acts of human trafficking.

Facts About Human Trafficking

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

  • Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, as countries of origin, transit or destination - or even all three.
  • Trafficking often occurs from less developed countries to more developed countries.
  • Most trafficking is national or regional, but long-distance trafficking does occur.
  • Europe is the destination for victims from the widest range of destinations, while victims from Asia are trafficked to the widest range of destinations.
  • Sexual exploitation (e.g., sex trafficking) is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking. It is the most visible. Other forms of exploitation are under-reported.
  • A disproportionate number of women are involved in human trafficking both as victims and as culprits.
  • Most trafficking is carried out by people whose nationality is the same as that of their victim.
  • Most trafficked forced labor occurs in agriculture, construction, garments and textiles, catering and restaurants, domestic work, the provision of healthcare services, entertainment and the sex industry.
a boy peeking through the slats of a fence wall

What is Considered Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking can be broken down into three primary elements: what is done, how it’s done and why it’s done — the act, the means, and the purpose.

  • The purpose of human trafficking is always exploitation.
  • The methods for trafficking in persons include abuse of power, deception, coercion, and threats of or use of force.
  • The actual act of trafficking is done through the recruiting, transporting, harboring, transferring and receiving of persons.
A boy wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt sits against a wall

Each of the three elements is spelled out in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. This United Nations Convention, adopted in 2003, established the formal worldwide definition for human trafficking.

"Trafficking in Persons [is] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."

Human Smuggling vs. Human Trafficking

As established in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person. Exploitation isn't necessarily the purpose behind human smuggling.

A girl with a serious expression on her face

According to the the Department of Homeland Security, human smuggling involves moving a person across a country’s border in violation of immigration laws, regardless of whether the person consents to be moved.

Human trafficking may involve the illegal movement of persons across country borders, it may include a smuggling component, but human smuggling only becomes trafficking if deception, coercion, abuse of power and threats of or use of force are used to hold people against their will for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation.

Human smuggling is the illegal movement of someone across a border. Human trafficking is the illegal exploitation of a person.

Indicators of Human Trafficking

Recognizing common signs that a person is possibly a victim of human trafficking is an important part of helping save lives. The following indicators compiled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are often present in cases of human trafficking; however, the presence of an indicator isn’t proof someone is a trafficking victim. And not all of the indicators are always present in human trafficking cases.

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Three boys breaking rocks with hammers

A Child's Life is Worth Protecting

Poverty increases a child’s vulnerability to violence, exploitation, and abuse. Children living in poverty lack basic needs, lack education, frequently have to fend for themselves and often are undocumented citizens. They may be born into servitude, sold into the sex trade by a family member, kidnapped from their village at gunpoint or taken from the streets without anyone noticing. The ways poverty preys upon the marginalized are numerous.

In the world's least developed countries children make up a large portion of detected trafficking victims. They also represent a larger share of worldwide trafficking victims than they did a decade ago.

A solemn looking girl wearing a blue sweater leans against a wall
Our Child Sponsorship Program combats child trafficking and exploitation by expanding the circle of caring adults actively participating in a child’s life. We know the children’s names, their families and the neighborhoods they live in. When something is wrong, we notice.

The minimum standards for our program dictate that each child development center provide four to eight hours of programming each week, at least 48 weeks out of the year, and that individual child attendance be taken each time the center is open. If a child doesn’t show up at the center, a staff member checks in on the situation.

The child development center workers and church leaders running the program know each and every child they serve, investing in the child personally and relationally, as friends and mentors.

When a child in our program is exploited, traumatized, abused or victimized, we act immediately.

We help with legal resources to represent and defend a child’s rights or to help find a missing child. We work to restore the child to emotional, physical and spiritual health by providing medical care, counseling and safe shelter for the child. The child development center is a consistent source of support for the children and the families.

Our commitment to vulnerable children in poverty means we also can offer foster care for children living in violent circumstances, intervention for adolescents struggling with alcohol, sexual activity or truancy, counseling to empower parents to protect and provide for their children, and job training and income opportunities for parents so their children are able to stay in school.

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Through our Child Sponsorship Program, you can help protect children vulnerable to being trafficked.

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Please call us at 800-336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT, to speak with a Compassion representative.