National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is today January 11th. …Guest post from Austin Haynes

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is today January 11th.

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According to Department of Homeland Security “human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act”.  We all hear this and think this behavior is disgusting and evil, but really it happens overseas, or to poor people, or to those in other parts of the country.  It doesn’t affect me or my friends and neighbors.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!

On October 3, 2014 the Washington Post wrote about the “Just Ask” Prevention Project and the success the program had in just its first year.  Over 250 victims of human trafficking and nearly 70 human trafficking suspects were identified in Northern Virginia.  These numbers are just unimaginable.

DHS lists many factors as possible signs of a possible victim that include behavior or physical state, social behavior, work conditions or immigration status, and minor victims.  Some of those who may be susceptible may be those of broken homes, those who have suffered bullying, and those who may be susceptible to coercion.  Many victims, especially the younger ones are now recruited over social media.

This past September, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) put forth the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) and it passed with bipartisan support.  This new law among other things requires state child welfare agencies to identify, document, and determine appropriate services for children in foster care or who are otherwise involved in the child welfare system who are victims of child sex trafficking or at risk of becoming victims.  The Act also encourages agencies to promote “normalcy” for these at risk youth to allow them to participate in age appropriate social, scholastic, and enrichment activities.  As a former foster child, I cannot emphasize how important this is.

Often children in foster care are vulnerable as they have been displaced from their families, they already feel victimized, and are often looking for social acceptance.  In today’s social media driven environment, predators are able to take advantage of this.  They entrap these children, often by taking advantage of the victim themselves and then threatening exposure to family and friends unless the victim continues to follow the predator’s commands.

Republicans have been at the lead in helping to stop trafficking passing over a dozen bills, including the Debbie Smith Act protecting Sexual Assault Victims.  Human Trafficking is not just about moving children across national borders or state lines, but can happen in our own neighborhoods.  Have you noticed a child who seems always to be at work instead of in school or playing?  There are many forms of abuse and not all involve human trafficking, but human trafficking is real and it does happen in Northern Virginia.  Please visit DHS and find out more about their “Blue Campaign” to prevent human trafficking at http://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/about-blue-campaign .

 

Austin Haynes