Written by Lita Mercado, Director of Victim Assistance Programs
“No one is free when others are oppressed.”
During Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January, advocates, organizations and individuals unite to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking. Human Trafficking can feel like a big, heavy and often overwhelming subject—one that can make individuals feel helpless. But you do have the ability to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking.
About 40 million people around the world and 400,000 people in the U.S. are victims. It’s so prevalent that it is considered the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year. Waymakers serves as the administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and provides direct services to victims of human trafficking in Orange County. Last year 231 victims of human trafficking were served in Orange County.
The first step in making a difference is to get educated about the topic of human, labor and sex trafficking. Learn what it is, what the risk factors and signs are, and who is most vulnerable. Knowledge is power, and if you learn the indicators of human trafficking and how to report it, you can make a difference. Getting the entire family involved in the conversation is another great way to increase awareness and education in your own circle—often kids who are in school are the “eyes on the ground” when it comes to their classmates and their community. Talk to your kids and empower them, too!
If you are looking to dive deeper into making an impact on human trafficking, here are a few tips from the experts that have been shown to provide real-time help to individuals, helping to save lives:
- Support Waymakers and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF). The support, advocacy and services that Waymakers and OCHTTF provide to victims empowers them to move on and engage in the healing process, while also helping them navigate the often-complex legal system. When you donate or volunteer your time you make a positive impact on victims of human trafficking. The ways in which you can support Waymakers and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force are by:Volunteering. From helping to sort through and organize donations, conducting outreach and presentation to community groups interested in learning more about human trafficking, to being a mentor to a survivor of human trafficking, there are several ways you can help and be a part of the work, fighting human trafficking. Volunteer orientations are held throughout the year through Waymakers. Join us to learn more!Donations. Is your group or organization looking to connect to a nonprofit? Does your group want to organize a donation drive? Waymakers serves individuals that have a wide variety of needs and welcome brand-new items that can be given directly to survivors. The needs of the victims served range from new clothing to household items including bedding, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. Waymakers also accepts and appreciates financial donations to help support the work and meet other needs essential to the wellbeing of our clients.
Collaboration. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force is a great partner if your community group or workplace is interested in making a difference in the lives of human trafficking victims. OCHTTF works with organizations to identify available resources and creative ways to address the concerns of victims and the community.
- Be a conscious consumer. Buy products and gifts that are fair trade certified and think before you buy! From chocolate to clothing, you can discover your slavery footprint and take steps to prevent human trafficking in the dollars you spend.
Finally, if you see something, say something! If you believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, report your suspicions to law enforcement by calling local law enforcement or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline line at 1-888-373-7888.
Please don’t try to intervene yourself. Let the appropriate authorities employ their expertise to ensure the safety of the potential victim, the public, and you.
To learn more about our programs, services and other ways to prevent human, labor and sex trafficking in your area, visit waymakersoc.org or ochumantrafficking.com.