Two years ago, I began volunteering with the homeless population in my home city. One night, a homeless man who was familiar to myself and especially to the outreach workers I shadowed shared some disconcerting news. He'd heard of a young girl, likely somewhere between 13 and 15 in age, with a much older boyfriend who was selling her body on the streets.
Ultimately, we couldn't help this girl. We couldn't find her. We needed information, and certainty, and police involvement to track her down, and these were things we didn't have.
Maybe this case seems unconnected to human trafficking as a whole, but the reality is that 80% of human trafficking is believed to involve sexual exploitation.
I felt incredibly helpless in the wake of this; in the wake of something much bigger than myself.
There are approximately 20-30 million slaves in the world today.
In the United States, these slaves are often young girls who have run away from home. In fact, "1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2013 were likely sex trafficking victims". Like most people, I made the mistake of believing that slavery no longer happens here, in the United States, but it does.
Human trafficking doesn't just exist in the United States, however, it's in every country in the world. While there are men and women trafficked for labor exploitation, the most lucrative human trafficking is the sex trade, which garners an estimated $27.8 billion dollars every year. It's not just young girls either; it's adult women, and boys, too.
There are many, many organizations that work to fight human trafficking. These include the following:
These books both touch on topics relating to human trafficking, though mostly sexual exploitation. "Half the Sky" was an excellent read, and though I haven't read "Girls Like Us", it's certainly on my list!