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Resources to Guide Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protect Act (TVPA) and the United Nations Palermo Protocol, which have cumulatively intensified proper government and international responses to the scourge of human trafficking.

Change begins with awareness. State, national, and international organizations provide resources to learn about human trafficking, how to best eradicate it, and strategies to decrease broad-based exploitation. Accessing these resources is therefore a crucial step toward joining the anti-trafficking fight here in Pennsylvania.

We’ve compiled a list of recently updated annual national and state-level reports to equip our readers with the power of knowledge.

Government responses to human trafficking 

The U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 is a diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking and a comprehensive resource on government anti-trafficking efforts. It looks at prosecution, protection, and prevention in 188 countries compared to their previous years’ efforts and ranks them upon a 3-tiered system.

Highlights from the 2020 report include:

  • An analysis of trafficking of athletes, of Stockholm syndrome in human trafficking, and of improving health care for survivors through trauma-informed care and informed consent.

  • Ways to improve responses to child sexual exploitation outside a perpetrator’s home country and enhancing accountability for deployed U.N. peacekeepers.

  • The importance of faith-based organizations and communities which “are well-positioned by their familiarity with local threats, their stake in keeping their communities safe, and their ability to develop context build trust, establish relationships, and provide protection before a trafficker ever acts.”

  • Problematic trends, such as 10 counties, according to a new 2019 provision in the TVPA, having government-sanctioned trafficking. Governments also frequently suspend sentences of convicted traffickers, which can decrease reporting.

The report recommends that countries focus on ending state-sponsored forced labor, increasing labor trafficking prosecutions, repealing laws that require force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking, and ending the penalization of victims for unlawful acts their traffickers compel them to commit.

U.S. human trafficking hotline cases

The National Human Trafficking Hotline just released their 2019 update on communications made to their hotline. They report 11,500 human trafficking cases across the U.S., cases defined not as criminal cases but as distinct situations of trafficking involving one or more victims.

Two significant Pennsylvania-level statistics include:

  • Pennsylvania has the ninth highest reported trafficking cases–up from 11th in 2018.

  • Reported cases have steadily increased to 271 in 2019, up from 113 cases in 2015 and consistent with 2018 numbers. It is indeterminable whether this is due to either an increase in trafficking or better reporting and calls for help.

Sexual exploitation in Pennsylvania

Villanova’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) released its annual spring 2020 report. CSE’s mission is to educate and assist those who respond to commercial sexual exploitation in Pennsylvania and beyond, and promote victim-centered, trauma-informed collaboration.

To that goal, the report includes an analysis of the state’s anti-human trafficking law, including recent improvements and needed changes, and digs into county trends, concerns, and best practices. More specifically:

  • After the Buyer Beware Act went into effect earlier this year, the anti-trafficking law was expanded to include criminalizing anyone who advertises a trafficked individual, giving law enforcement more tools to prosecute online advertising in particular. It further expands the definition of “child” to provide protections for all minors and enhances penalties for trafficking.

  • CSE claims “the laws as written do not provide the best protections to victims nor properly allow prosecutors to target perpetrators.” For instance, in 2019, there were 401 cases for selling sex (70%) and 172 cases for buying sex (30%). They therefore recommend additional improvements, such as criminalizing anyone who patronizes a trafficked individual (i.e., prosecuting sex buyers rather than prostituted persons) as found in House Bill 2170.

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, ‘when governments take action and lead, progress toward a world free from human trafficking is possible.” The tireless effort of organizations such as Greenlight Operation and local activists amplifies that work, and in another 20 years we can look back on even greater progress.

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