December 31 marks the release of my new novel Stranger Things, the story of a small band of strangers working to bring down a human trafficking in the American Southwest. January 1 marks the first day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Last week Fox News published
an opinion piece I wrote about how I came to this topic. I’ve since been accused by one critic of using “feigned compassion” to “sell books.” Look, I’d much rather save lives than sell books. If you have only $16 to spend, please give it to an organization that’s working to end the sex trafficking crisis, and borrow my book from the library. But whatever anyone thinks of my efforts, writing is what I do. Raising awareness through story is an obvious way I can contribute to a solution. Because each of us does what he or she can.
I’ve received far more important responses to that article, such as the young survivor who wrote to thank me for spreading the word about the reality of the problem, which is no lie, and the father of six young women who wanted to know how his family can help bring an end to the crisis.
What can anyone do to help? Plenty. I’m no expert. I’m just an Average Ann who had her eyes opened, and I’m still on a steep learning curve. But here’s the path I’ve been taking:
(1) Educate yourself about the problem of human trafficking in the United States. Start with The Polaris Project, Not for Sale, Children of the Night, ECPAT, the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative and other FBI bulletins such as this one about the status of sex trafficking in the United States.
(2) Learn about what’s being done in your area to prevent trafficking and/or to provide aftercare services to victims pulled out of slavery. Start with this Polaris Project map. Then try an online search for “sex trafficking prevention in [your state]” and “aftercare for sex trafficking victims in [your state].” Because January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, you might learn about the efforts of nearby organizations via local news media. (Be proactive and let them know of your interest in the topic.)
(3) Most anti-trafficking organizations list on their websites ways to get involved with their efforts. Help in whatever way best suits your skills, values, and resources. You might support a group financially, start a grassroots effort in your hometown, pray, donate goods or services, volunteer, shop with slave-conscious organizations, or help to raise awareness via fundraisers, blogging, and so on. (You might write a novel!) Read Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery (not just sex trafficking) by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim for additional ideas.
(4) Keep your eyes open. See–really notice–the people in your environment. Learn what trafficking looks like and how you can take action if you think you see it. Start with these fact sheets and infographics:
- “Recognizing the Signs”
- “Human Trafficking of Children in the United States”
- “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children”
- “Trafficking Fact Sheet”
- “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the US”
And then keep these hotlines close by:
- Your local law enforcement. (Report suspected human trafficking incidents to them first.)
- The Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-333-7888
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
You can also report what you see online via the FBI’s CyberTipline: “The CyberTipline is operated in partnership with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, military criminal investigative organizations, U.S. Department of Justice, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force program, as well as other state and local law enforcement agencies.”