Opinion: We need to discuss human trafficking now

Aria Zahler, Opinions Writer

Canva graphic by Jocelynn Landon / The Runner

Human Trafficking has been a notorious issue that has drawn great concern all around the country and, of course, the world. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States.”  

Today, California leads all other U.S. States in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In recent years, this public safety issue has grown more common in every local neighborhood from coast to coast. People are being taken from their homes and their families. The traffickers then obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. 

Human trafficking generates over $150 billion in profits every year worldwide according to the DHS, and 40.3 million people are being held captive in the trafficking industry worldwide. 

The numbers reported each year are eye-opening. 

The National Human Trafficking Hotline was established in 2007 to help those affected by human trafficking and to provide the anti-trafficking field with information to help combat this issue. From 2007 to 2021, they have received just shy of 400,000 signals. These signals are from calls, texts, e-mails, and online reporting.  

In 2021, there have been over 51,000 signals received by the hotline. 13,000 of those received were from victims and survivors. Most of these cases involved sex trafficking, followed by labor. These are the national statistics reported publicly from the hotline.  

Sex traffickers employ a variety of strategies to exploit their victims. Often, victims are subjected to continual acts of intimidation and abuse. This includes physical and psychological tactics used to maintain control over them.  

Studies from Cathy Zimmerman, PhD, who is a behavioral and social scientist who leads research on migration and violence, noted the use of threats through romantic relationships, false promises of well-paying jobs, manipulation and violence. She has also conducted some of the first-ever research on human trafficking and health and is currently leading a program of global research on human trafficking, gender-based violence and forced labor. 

It is often seen as a hidden crime, and victims may be afraid to come forward and seek help. Language barriers, fear of their traffickers and fear of law enforcement are just a few things that keep victims from seeking help. The heart of this involves strangers, acquaintances, even family members. 

Their goal is to prey on the vulnerable and those seeking opportunities to build themselves a brighter future. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the locations that have been identified as harboring the most trafficking cases are sex shops, massage and spa businesses, hotels and motels, residence homes, and online ad venues. 

Many of us believe that human trafficking mostly occurs on the streets at late night, but that is a misconception. Many traffickers lurk in broad daylight and in populous locations. 

The trauma caused to these victims can leave them scarred for life. We often think of wounds as being physical, but there are also wounds on the inside that are not directly visible to others. It is important to remember, it is never the victim’s fault. 

Recognizing indicators of human trafficking can save a life. There are resources to contact in the event an indicator is noticed and are also available to help restore hope to survivors of human trafficking.  

You can contact the hotline by either calling 1-888-373-7888, chat online at www.humantraffickinghotline.org, or text 233733. Services are available 24/7. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.