trafficking month

This January marks the 10th annual National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

To help raise awareness, Your Safe Haven will start uploading the first in a series of podcasts to its website today.

Sharon McNamara, education and outreach specialist, explained that there will be no guest for the first episode, as it will work to better explain human trafficking from what the perception of it often is.

She encouraged those who have questions after listening, to contact her.

“First, we’re trying to re-educate the public regarding human trafficking, because people have in their minds a perception that human trafficking has to be interstate and you have to transport the victims. That is not what human trafficking actually is,” she said.

McNamara said victims are often coerced, by threatening to tell others about the victim’s behavior, or by withholding drugs from the victim.

“We don’t think about that, but that’s what happens every single day,” McNamara said, adding that the people who are involved can attempt to justify what is happening.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling, which involves illegal transportation of a person across a border.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center explained that victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, countries, socioeconomic statuses, and so on. The center added that people who are already in vulnerable situations – such as people experiencing homelessness – may be more likely to be targeted.

The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Sex trafficking victims may be forced, threatened, or manipulated by promises of love or affection to engage in sex acts for money. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

According to childrensrights.org, it is estimated that up to 40.3 million people around the world are being trafficked, and sex trafficking is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal industries, with children being vulnerable to exploitation, especially children connected to the child welfare system. In the U.S., 60 percent of domestic child trafficking victims come from foster care and group homes.

McNamara said that at the end of the month there will be a podcast with the organization’s staff attorney, Jill Swiontek, on stalking awareness.

“The reason we’re doing these podcasts is because we know our demographics are so spread out, to give everybody access to everything that we have going on,” she said adding that she intends to start adding videos of speakers or other events held by the organization on its website.

Those interested in learning more or listening to the podcast can visit www.yoursafehaven.org or they can call the office at 623-7644 or email smcnamara@yoursafehaven.org.

Contact Katie Smolen at 623-1151 ext. 110 or ksmolen@bedfordgazette.com.

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