National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Every month there is a national awareness topic with a mental health concept connected to it. These important topics bring into light aspects that may affect one’s mental health that people may not always be aware of.

For the month of January, PEERS TAY’s focus is on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention. President Obama proclaimed in 2010 that the month of January would be National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month to help educate people of the severity on the topic of National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention. According to Verite Fair Labor Worldwide, “In his proclamation, President Obama wrote, “[T]oday, in too many places around the world — including right here in the United States — the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we resolve to shine a light on every dark corner where human trafficking still threatens the basic rights and freedoms of others.”

What is the definition of Slavery

Slavery is restricting an individual’s freedom without their consent, and forcing them to do acts without any benefits to the individual. What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery refers to the possession and/or exploitation of another person or persons’ in a manner that violates their human rights and deprives them of their individual liberty.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country and/or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

For Slavery & Human Trafficking, we have to remember that there is never just one type of victim because it affects not only women, but everyone no matter the age, gender, ethnic/racial group, or socioeconomic class. Not only are people affected by this sort of trauma emotionally and physically but also mentally. Human Traffickers are often defined as a person who is engaged in the illegal transportation of people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation depending on the area may use certain tactics to exploit people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “there are certain general clues to be aware of and to help identify victims of human trafficking such as:

● Prostitution and escort services;

● Pornography, stripping, or exotic dancing;

● Massage parlors;

● Sexual services publicized on the Internet or in newspapers;

● Agricultural or ranch work;

● Factory work or sweatshops;

● Businesses like hotels, nail salons or home-cleaning services;

● Domestic labor (cleaning, childcare, eldercare, etc. within a home);

● Restaurants, bars, or cantinas; or

● Begging, street peddling, or door-to-door sales.

Victims of human trafficking may exhibit any of the following:

● Evidence of being controlled either physically or psychologically;

● Inability to leave home or place of work;

● Inability to speak for oneself or share one’s own information;

● Information is provided by someone accompanying the individual;

● Loss of control of one’s own identification documents (ID or passport);

● Have few or no personal possessions;

● Owe a large debt that the individual is unable to pay off; or

● Loss of sense of time or space, not knowing where they are or what city or state they are in.

Psychological and Behavioral Clues

Being able to recognize the psychological and emotional consequences of human trafficking can also be helpful in identifying victims. Victims often:

● Develop general feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, self-blame, and humiliation;

● Suffer from shock and denial, or display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression;

● Suffer from sleep or eating disorders;

● Become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with or “escape” their situation, or as a method of control used by their traffickers;

● Become emotionally numb, detached, and disassociated from the physical and psychological trauma and display “flat affect”; or

● Experience “trauma bonding” with the trafficker, positively identifying with the trafficker and believing that, despite repeated abuse, the trafficker is a loving boyfriend, spouse, or parent.

Physical Effects of Human Trafficking

While not all victims of trafficking have physical indicators that aid identification, many victims suffer serious health issues, some of which may include the following:

● Signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, broken bones, burns, and scarring;

● Chronic back, visual, or hearing problems from work in agriculture, construction, or manufacturing;

● Skin or respiratory problems caused by exposure to agricultural or other chemicals;

● Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, which are spread in overcrowded, unsanitary environments with limited ventilation;

● Untreated chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease; or

● Reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, pelvic pain and injuries from sexual assault, or forced abortions.