The holidays are supposed to be a season full of cheer and joy, but the darker realities of human trafficking can often overshadow them.
Amid holiday celebrations, millions of individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds are being exploited behind closed doors. Human trafficking is a sinister form of modern-day slavery that exploits individuals into labor or commercial sex using force, fraud, or coercion. Despite efforts to combat this crime, human trafficking cases tend to spike during the holiday season.
The holiday rush, particularly with increased travel, creates distractions that allow traffickers to operate under the radar. Shockingly, a survey by the Polaris Project revealed that 75% of survivors recounted staying at hotels at some point during their exploitation. As the holiday season marks the peak of travel, it is crucial to remain vigilant at airports, hotels, and tourist spots. This exploitation occurs in our country, our cities, and our communities. Human trafficking doesn’t pause during the holidays; it exploits vulnerabilities and heightens the risk for potential victims.
Discover more about the alarming rise of human trafficking during the holidays and learn how you can contribute to stopping it.
Understanding Human Trafficking During the Holidays
Human Human trafficking, recognized as the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry, tragically affects an estimated 24.9 million victims worldwide. During the busiest travel season, innocent individuals are trafficked in and out of the United States. Traffickers use busy hubs like airports, train stations, and bus terminals to scout for and transport their victims. Despite efforts to train airport and airline staff to spot trafficking indicators, the sheer volume of holiday crowds often conceals their activities within the chaos.
In a pre-Christmas interview in 2021, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso remarked, ‘We let our guard down because you’re supposed to be joyful, and, you know, it’s a great time of year. And unfortunately, we have people out there that don’t care what time of year it is.’
Sheriff Mancuso highlights a significant issue: our preoccupation with holiday distractions often leads us to overlook the need for vigilance and protection. When our collective guard as a community diminishes, traffickers exploit what should be a time of celebration, turning it into a living hell for innocent victims.
Recognizing Signs and Vulnerabilities
Human trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, class, or age. Nevertheless, it is essential to be able to recognize those who are among vulnerable populations. Runaway youth, immigrants, seasonal workers, and those who are experiencing homelessness are the targets of traffickers and lured in with deceptive promises. In today’s digital era, social media and online dating platforms provide traffickers with an anonymous gateway to potential victims. What appears as an innocent online connection could be the beginning of a trafficking ordeal.
While not everyone online is evil and malicious, remaining vigilant is crucial. Recognizing signs and vulnerabilities in human trafficking can look like some of the following scenarios
- Traffickers often closely monitor their victims, not letting them out of their sight.
- Visible signs of physical abuse such as malnourishment or bearing bruises, burns, or scars.
- Avoidance of eye contact and reluctance to engage in conversation.
- Victims may own certain tattoos as a way for traffickers to show ownership of them.
- Seeming rehearsed or scripted in social interactions.
- Lack of official identification documents.
- Poor physical or dental health.
- Excessive work hours.
- Living at the workplace.
- Checking into hotels with older males and referring to them as ‘boyfriend’ or ‘daddy’ (pimp).
Impact on Survivors and Communities
Human trafficking unquestionably inflicts profound emotional, physical, and psychological wounds on survivors. Enduring unimaginable abuse and then reintegrating into society as if nothing happened is an immensely challenging journey. This challenge underscores the critical importance of accessing support services to rehabilitate survivors’ minds, bodies, and spirits.
The holiday season, often a time of loneliness for many Americans, can be particularly challenging for survivors reintegrating into society. They may face financial constraints, emotional turmoil, or profound isolation. Providing survivors with access to the right resources can gift them the invaluable support needed for healing. No one should endure the aftermath of human trafficking alone.
Spreading Awareness and Making a Difference
You might be wondering how you can help and what your role can be in making a difference this holiday season. Raising awareness by sharing information and resources, both online and in person, is a significant step in combating human trafficking. The power of collective action and small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in the big picture. After all, the holiday season is all about giving!
Moreover, here are some other ways you can actively help make a difference this holiday season:
- Donate funds or resources to anti-trafficking organizations, such as Bridging Freedom.
- Share infographics and resources on social media platforms.
- Stay informed and educated on human trafficking by reading more on the subject.
- Remain vigilant in public places, especially airports, to identify potential victims or traffickers.
- Support businesses that actively combat trafficking within their supply chains.
- Prioritize ethical consumerism during holiday shopping.
It’s a crucial reminder to remain vigilant this holiday season. Let’s not allow innocent victims to suffer while we enjoy our holiday celebrations. Every small effort contributes to the fight against human trafficking.
Support Bridging Freedom
Our goal at Bridging Freedom is to save lives and restore stolen childhoods. We have a multitude of restoration programs for victims of child abuse and human trafficking, seeking to provide a safe home for victims. Along with providing these services, one of Bridging Freedom’s main goals is to educate everyone to create a more conscious society that aims to stop these horrific actions sooner.
We have partnered with many organizations in the St. Pete/Clearwater area To expand resources to victims and provide them with a haven during this challenging time of their lives. These partnerships include the Clearwater / Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, Tampa Bay FBI Innocence Lost Initiative, and St. Petersburg College Center for Human Trafficking Awareness.
As we’ve shown with our partnerships, we can’t do this alone. If you want to support our cause in creating a safer environment for children, please donate online at the webpage.