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Slavery Still Exists

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It’s the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some form of labor or commercial sex act. And it still exists today:

  • 49.6 million people are estimated to live in slavery worldwide.¹
  • Since 2007, 151,714 victims have been identified in the United States.²
  • Since 2007, 3,646 victims have been identified in Pennsylvania.³

While the United States has done a tremendous job to combat this destructive crime, there is still more work to be done.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

As long as human trafficking exists, our communities are at risk to the injustices of modern-day slavery.

Know The Signs

There is no single indicator, but below are some signs you should be aware of.  If you witness or suspect human trafficking, or you are personally being trafficked, call the toll-free, multilingual, 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center & Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

Studies show most victims are rescued simply because a community member calls the authorities about suspected trafficking.

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Over-crowded living conditions
  • Inability to speak to anyone alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents (driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc.)
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Signs of neglect or malnutrition
  • Group of individuals with identical markings or tattoos
  • Sudden changes in appearance and/or behavior
  • Unable to leave locations without an escort
  • Unpaid or paid very little by their employer
  • Young person romantically involved with an older individual
  • Under 18 and in prostitution
  • Has stopped attending school or discontinued regular activities
  • Transportation is provided by employer
  • Disoriented or utilizing illicit drugs
  • Signs of physical restraint, confinement, or torture (bruises, scars, wounds, broken bones, etc.)

Know Their Stories

In the anti-human trafficking field, it’s common to hear phrases like, “human trafficking can happen to anyone,” or “it’s happening in our backyard.” But while these statements are technically true, they don’t capture who the majority of trafficking victims are: people stuck in vulnerable situations.

According to Polaris, vulnerable situations include:

  • an unstable living situation
  • poverty or economic need
  • a history of domestic violence
  • a history of sexual abuse
  • having a caregiver or family member who has a substance abuse issue
  • having an addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • being a runaway or involved in the juvenile justice or foster care system
  • being an undocumented immigrant

These situations are often complicated, messy, and may be difficult to spot. But as Polaris reminds us—”it’s not knowing the signs, it’s knowing the story” that matters.

Knowing someone’s story means knowing where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re heading. It means knowing people, not just picking up on non-contextual clues. This often takes more time and effort than assessing someone based on indicators, but it can prove more effective in the long run. If you want to fight human trafficking well, get to know people—especially those that might be in vulnerable situations.




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