Why do so many people not know human trafficking is happening?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Unfortunately, awful things go unnoticed by a majority of people most of the time, both today and in the past. We have so many examples of atrocious crimes against humanity which are discovered after the fact--or much too late to save more lives, as with the Holocaust--but only get worldwide attention once it is too late to help.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 

The crime of human trafficking is slavery. It is the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes; it is compelling people to labor or provide services through force, fraud, or coercion, whether citizens, legal residents, or persons having entered the country illegally. It is also taking from a person his or her travel documents (passports and or visas, whether authentic or forged) to compel that person's labor or services.

While human trafficking is a crime which is on the increase all over the world, it is still something many people do not know about, and there are some obvious reasons for that.

First, it is a crime that happens in the shadows, so to speak. Those who perpetrate the crime and those who participate in it do not want to attract any attention to the practice, and the victims are often either too helpless or too ashamed to speak.

Second, it is a crime that does not have a direct impact on most people in the world. While that sounds quite selfish, and it is, it is also the truth. Even in a world of hyper-information and overexposure to media, human trafficking is just not part of the world's conversation, though thankfully that is beginning to change.

Third, sex crimes are too sordid to talk about comfortably. Though we live in a world, at least here in America, where sensationalism is king and discussion of sex tapes and sexual scandal (mostly among celebrities and other public figures) is rampant, sex crimes are generally still just too much for popular consumption.

Finally, even those who know about human trafficking are not moved to act until they hear a story and it becomes personal. The two links I attached below are good examples of this. The Department of Justice has an entire website devoted to the statistical data concerning human trafficking, and the Polaris Project devotes an entire website to the stories of survivors who have been rescued. Numbers are impressive and stories are personal, but until the magnitude of the problem is somehow presented in a personal way, people are not likely to be moved. 

You are a student who has been moved by this issue for some reason and I applaud you for giving attention to the problem now that you know; however, not so long ago you did not know about human trafficking and therefore cared nothing about this awful crime. Whatever moved you to action is likely to move others, and that is what must happen in order for these crimes to stop. The number of task forces and rescue organizations committed to stopping human trafficking are increasing, which is a positive step toward eradicating the problem. Victims of human trafficking are also beginning to tell their stories, and the world is beginning to listen. 

Sources:

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