National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 11, 2019
National Human Trafficking Awareness day is observed annually on January 11th.
Human trafficking is a crime in which a person is made to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion, unless they are a minor. Any person under the age of 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present. In the USA, Human Trafficking is the 2nd largest organized crime and the fastest growing crime. The common age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 14 years old nationwide and 90% of these victims have a past history of sexual abuse. These are not statistics from overseas, but right here in our own communities.
To increase community awareness of Human Trafficking, we teamed up with Extended Hands of Hope, Founder & CEO Kristen Harness. Kristen has spent over 14 years educating herself on the issue of trafficking in order to understand where it’s happening, who it’s happening to, why it is prevalent, and what she could do to help.
Kristen also learned that her home state of Colorado, was one of the largest hubs for sex trafficking of minors and she soon realized the need for safe housing and supportive services for survivors of sex trafficking in Colorado.
We took an opportunity to speak with Kristen about the realities of sex trafficking. Our hope is to help raise awareness and motivate people to get involved in the fight against it.
What is Extended Hands of Hope?
Extended Hands of Hope is a local nonprofit that offers safe housing and supportive services to survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation. These services are offered through Avanti House Safe Home for minors, Forward Learning Academy, and through Community based Outreach and Therapy.
How has Human Sex Trafficking changed?
There have been both positive and negative changes in the last six years. Buyers are wanting younger kids. So the age of traffickers and victims is getting younger and younger. Victims have been identified as young as 6 years old. In addition, there has been an increase in trafficking with social media, becoming the number one way to recruit minors. However, there has also been an increase in anti-trafficking initiatives, and harsher laws. In fact, in 2017 the leader of a Colorado sex trafficking ring got 472-years— the longest human trafficking sentence ever given in the country.
How can readers get involved in the fight against Human Sex Trafficking?
There are many ways someone can fight human trafficking. It begins with education and awareness. Paying attention to red flags, and knowing how to report. If you see any of the following symptoms or behaviors do NOT try to rescue but call the police or the Hotline.
Signs of physical or sexual abuse
Poor mental health
Same as above, and including the following:
New tattoos, especially name, dollar signs ($), or barcodes
Gifts (around grooming, nails, hair, etc.)
Inappropriate social media and/or over sexualized content
These behaviors do not guarantee trafficking but they can be sign.
Most importantly recognizing that human trafficking happens locally. To help support the fight against Human Trafficking, readers can also support new laws, volunteer, purchase fair trade products, and give financially. Be sure to continue the conversation and educate others.
We understand that Human Trafficking can be a dark and heavy subject, it is our intention to increase understanding and awareness. Human trafficking is not only effecting the United States, but neighborhoods all over Colorado. We are asking our readers and our community to open their eyes, and commit to not allowing Human Trafficking to happen.