National Human Trafficking Awareness Day was last week, 11 January, and POTUS has declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month. Thanks to all of you who did something to to help educate yourself as well as others learn more about the awful injustices around the world today. Huge kudos to all those who are committed to working day in and day out to fight against slavery.

The awareness about human trafficking, particularly regarding its presence in the USA and other developed countries, has increased exponentially in the last few years. Trafficking in persons is a very real, huge, and ubiquitous problem and the more people aware of the issues the better. We can talk about it, it is in our vocabulary, and there are books, websites and places to go to learn more about it. This is a good thing.

However, I wonder just how far this all this awareness will get us if we don’t start taking the next step beyond awareness. And of what exactly are we making people aware? Many people are already taking the next step, and want to do more. Even so, a lot of the awareness activities I see going on stop short. We can feel good about attending these events, possibly raising money for this or that activity, but then what? When we get home and our ears are buzzing from a great concert, are our hearts buzzing about the message behind the music? I wonder if the message was louder than the music or if it was even heard? And just how many movies about Asian girls locked up and raped every night until they are rescued by a white guy can we see until we are blinded to the problem as it fades into the background of our “trafficking fatigue”?

I’m not against concerts and movies. It is important to get as wide an audience as possible and the formats provide a variety of methods to tell the stories of those who are affected. But what exactly is the message and how has this awareness stimulated you to do something about the problem?

It seems that the focus of awareness tends to be about the problems, and even then, the problems presented tend to be narrow in focus. It would be good to see more awareness of solutions and how an everyday person can be an abolitionist. Instead of continually drawing our attention to the problems, and leaving us overwhelmed with the worldly weight of it, I hope that the awareness campaigns are also making you aware of a tangible way to help – and more than just putting money in the tin. Donating money is good – don’t get me wrong – this work depends on it. But I don’t want people making a gift to assuage guilt if you know you should do more. I  hope that awareness campaigns will stimulate a conversation about the things you are learning about human trafficking, and how will it change what you are doing or how you are thinking.

Trafficking doesn’t start when a girl enters a brothel and there are more ways to help trafficking victims than raiding a brothel and putting them in a shelter. Good activities for sure – but there is so much more to the issue. What I hope to make you aware is that human trafficking can be prevented and that you can do something about it.

  • Have you ever thought about why American teens are at risk of being trafficked? Are you aware that you may be able to prevent American teens from being prostituted or caught up in pimp-hood? What about helping out at a homeless shelter or a drop-in center for teens?
  • Are you aware that globally, labor trafficking is far more common than sex trafficking?
  • Have you considered how to make migrant worker and immigration laws (in the US as well as other countries) fairer, yet without gaping loopholes for unscrupulous business people?
  • What about integrated development of health, nutrition, sanitation in at-risk villages in developing countries? Traffickers prey on the poverty and ignorance of villagers in recruiting men, women, girls, and boys into whatever slave work they need.
  • Consider working to strengthen families and communities to grow and serve each other – to protect each other – to look out for each other. All those “one-anothers” that we learned in Sunday School. It works.
  • Have you had any thoughts about addressing demand? Why is it that trafficking is such a problem in our world – even in our own society? This evil is not relegated to seedy neighborhoods of cities but is insidiously present everywhere. Perhaps you have wondered whether pornography has anything to do with the problem of sex trafficking – perhaps you wondered that for only 30 seconds and then it was gone because you just didn’t want to go there. There is something you can do to shut down pornography – one of the roots of the flesh trade.
  • Do you know how you might exert pressure on traffickers by buying products from companies that are transparent about their production and ensure that every worker has been paid a fair wage?
  • How can you develop an index of suspicion so that you can tell if the person doing your nails has been 18 years old for the last three years, but looks only 15 years old? Not that you want to go looking for a zebra in every closet, but to know enough to keep your eyes and ears open.

This is a challenge, not a complaint. The issues I raise about awareness here are present around the world – not just in the States.

Please contact me for more challenges!