January has officially been proclaimed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month (thanks President Obama!). This is a month set aside for urging all businesses, organizations, and individuals to do their part in ending all forms of modern-day slavery. While human trafficking is the trending topic on social media channels, make sure your voice is not only heard but actually working toward ending modern-day slavery!
…Because you’re more than just an “#activist.”
Here are 6 things you should be aware of when raising awareness:
1. AWARENESS IS MORE THAN JUST NUMBERS.
In 2014, the Global Slavery Index estimated that there are 35.8 million people enslaved in the world today. And in 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there were 20.9 million enslaved. In 2009, sociologist Kevin Bales estimated that there were 27 million enslaved. Frankly, no one knows exactly how many people trafficking affects; trafficking is an illegal, underground issue.
Just shouting numbers from rooftops won’t actually equip you or anyone else to know trafficking when it’s staring you in the face. Awareness has to go beyond numbers, to knowing what the people these numbers represent look like in our midst.
We know that the problem is real, and that behind every disputable estimate is a real person who cannot be dismissed. More effective than sharing the “stats” is sharing the real stories of those affected.
2. AWARENESS IS KNOWING THE HISTORY.
Anti-trafficking efforts are often referred to as the “modern-day abolition movement.” This isn’t a name we should carry lightly. Understanding the role that slavery has played in history can inform the way we understand human trafficking today, and digging into our past and reading about historical abolitionists inspires us to take action. We recommend picking up the book “Beyond the River” and following our friends at Historians Against Slavery.
3. AWARENESS IS RESPECTFUL.
Our efforts at raising awareness can actually perpetuate misunderstandings that hurt those we want to help—or they could simply fall far short of being empowering. In a story about child sex trafficking, for example, the words “child prostitute” and “victim of sex trafficking” evoke very different mental images and emotional reactions. (In one unfortunate story, The Village Voice actually refers to child trafficking victims as “tots-titutes.”) As you share a relevant news story or craft your own pieces of writing about trafficking, be sure to honor those affected with your language. Read through the Love146 Language and Media Guide for more helpful tips on how to communicate in a way that assists survivors of child trafficking.
4. AWARENESS IS SHOWING THE REALITY.
Human trafficking is undoubtedly one of the darkest issues our world faces today. However, dark images used in communicating human trafficking can sometimes do more harm than good. Sensational imagery like blood splatters, cages, suitcases, and ropes are relevant to certain specific and extreme cases of human trafficking, but they create illusions that keep people from identifying trafficking within their community. A person experiencing trafficking or exploitation may not be able to self-identify or feel the need to seek help.
Exaggeration can also devalidate the true and “typical” experiences of survivors of human trafficking, alienating the public from sympathizing with common trafficking cases.
As you’re spreading the word about human trafficking, be careful with the images you create and share.
5. AWARENESS IS TAKING THE TIME.
Like most people, when you first heard about human trafficking you may have felt an instant urge to become a modern-day abolitionist, sharing with your friends and family about the issue, and maybe finding ways to engage your community. Nourish your drive and enthusiasm by taking the time to educate yourself on the nuances and details of what trafficking is and by staying up to date on trafficking in the news. Many have dedicated years to researching the issue, and, lucky for you, have written articles and reports on what they’ve found. We know that all this information can be overwhelming, so we’ve made it easy by compiling our own report of the Must Read Research of 2014. Follow Love146 on Twitter for news updates on human trafficking.
6. AWARENESS IS A GATEWAY TO FURTHER ACTION.
It’s really trendy to raise awareness—and it’s even trendier to accuse awareness raising of being useless. Don’t get caught in either of these pits! Awareness has amazing value, and its value is as a gateway to catalyzing further action. You’re aware… now what? Take an inventory of what talents and resources you have. We’re not asking you to do what you can’t do; we’re asking you to do what you CAN do—and what you LOVE to do. Start by checking out the Love146 Take Action page.
“There are risks and costs to action.
But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” -JFK