Human Trafficking: Awareness Without Purposeful Action Can Be Dangerous

Today’s post is written by Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm and Bailey Patton Brackin, LMSW from the Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT). CCHT provides education, training, consultation, research, and public policy services to build the capacity for effective anti-trafficking prevention, intervention, and aftercare responses.

For the last several years, President Barack Obama has set aside January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This month is designed to raise awareness, educate, and move the country forward in our response to human trafficking. With nearly 27 million victims in the world today, no country, state, or city is immune. Human trafficking can and does happen everywhere. Within the United States, it is estimated that 100,000 children are commercially exploited and another 300,000 are at risk. While the last decade has shed much light on this modern day form of slavery, many individuals still remain in the dark. Indeed, it can be difficult to believe that such a horrendous form of abuse and exploitation is occurring in your own backyard.

Because of the complexity and scope of this issue, awareness among all citizens and multidisciplinary professionals is essential. However, informed and intentional action is also needed. Awareness without purposeful action can be dangerous. It can lead to inaccurate definitions, sensationalized images of victims, and disregard for survivor-leader expertise. As service providers – with personal or professional experiences – it is our job to educate the community and engage in partnerships to combat human trafficking. It is only through this – thoughtful and deliberate efforts – which we can join in the anti-trafficking movement in a manner that is healing rather than harmful. Addressing the complexities of human trafficking does take a coordinated collaborative response; no one entity can do it alone. Human trafficking awareness month provides the perfect forum for such engagement. It is an opportunity to provide education and facilitate volunteer opportunities in a way that can have a huge impact.

So what can you do? How do you use human trafficking awareness month to have a positive impact on your community? At the Wichita State University Center for Combating Human Trafficking, we host a number of events and have found the opportunities are endless. You could host a panel discussion with multi-disciplinary professionals from your area who are serving victims/survivors, hold a donation drive for your local runaway and homeless youth shelter, or put together an anti-trafficking conference. Ultimately, every community is different. Find out what will ignite passion in your city and search for like-minded partners who will work alongside you to host an event in your area. It may seem nearly impossible to put together an event amidst an already packed schedule, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. This January PBS will air a new documentary series called A Path Appears which focuses on gender based equality and the resulting vulnerability across the world. On January 26th, the story will feature human trafficking. For little to no cost you could host a screening and then facilitate a conversation about what human trafficking looks like in your community.

We would love to see what other communities are doing to honor human trafficking awareness month. Throughout January share your pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #onetoomany and we may feature you on our site. For more information and resources be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And be sure to check out the fabulous resources available from our partners at MANY.