A few years ago my phone rang around 11:30 at night. The voice on the other end was a 15-year-old boy we had been kind to a few weeks earlier. “Clay, I’m at the corner store. My parents kicked me out. Can you come get me?”
When I arrived ten minutes later I found him huddled against the wall, trying to squat so that his hoodie would cover his bare legs. It was cold that night, and he was wearing shorts. I watched a couple people come and go as he hopped in my warm car. I wondered what he would do if he didn’t have me and my family to call. How long would it take until someone else came along?
And what might they do to him?
Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and the first thing we all need to be aware of is that there are 27 million people in slavery today. Right now. And they’re not contained in any one part of the world. They are probably in your city. You might drive by them this very day.
I’ve been stunned many times as I’ve learned more about this issue over the past two and a half years. For much of that time I also thought I couldn’t actually do anything about it but feel bad and then pray. But now I’m encouraged by all the good work being done by so many people to stand up for victims, these people in forced labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation.
It takes all of us to save them, and you can do something about it right now. Today. Good things are happening. President Obama has even seen the impact of these efforts, like the 60,000 college students who just raised over $3 million last week to fight human trafficking across America and around the world.
In no particular order, here are a number of steps you can take to add your voice to a movement already in full swing.
1. Safe Harbor campaign–Kids Not Criminals
Most U.S. states don’t have safe harbor laws for minors meaning the victims of sexual exploitation have to fear being criminalized if they escape or are rescued. The Polaris Project just launched the Kids Not Criminals Petition, and you can sign on to make sure these poor kids will not be prosecuted for prostitution once they escape a life of terror and violence. It takes ten seconds to add your name. Please sign it now.
2. Get Familiar With The Polaris Project
The Polaris Project is a leader in the fight against human trafficking. I’ve learned so much from their resources. You can start with this interactive map of how your home area is doing. Then you can learn more about what’s going on in your state with this easy to read report.
3. Know The National Human Trafficking Hotline! 1-888-3737-888
My state just passed a law a few months ago making it mandatory for this number to be posted in many places like massage parlors, nail salons, bars, restaurants, truck stops, and more. Memorize it and put it in your phone. First of all, it’s a direct line to help and rescue should you see someone who you believe is being held against their will. But you can also call for resources and information or to find out who else is standing for freedom in your town.
4. Join the End It Movement.
Stay informed. #EndIt
5. Find Out How Many Slaves Work For You
I took the survey at slaveryfootprint.org and learned about how my lifestyle and purchases potentially connect to laborers around the world. It takes a few minutes but is enlightening.
“Awareness is doing the work.” ~ Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission
These victims can be restored, brought back to life instead of enduring a tortured existence at the hands of evil people. It’s up to us to shine light into the darkness.