When it comes to an issue as immense as human trafficking, citizens can often feel like there isn’t anything they can do to make a real difference. Donating money to reputable organizations that work on the front lines is always welcome, but are there more personal ways to get involved?
William Wilberforce, the 18th Century abolitionist, lobbied to end the slave trade. For almost two decades, he introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament. Much like today, fellow citizens of his time often turned a blind eye to this issue. Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Knowledge is key. We live in the Information Age and in the past few years, more journalists have been reporting on issues related to human trafficking. Also, states all across our country have developed task forces to help educate the public and develop ways to assist and care for victims. We may not want to actively be involved in social justice issues like this one, but none of us can say that we were totally unaware.
Less than a week ago, a citizen in Ellicott City, Maryland noticed a man dragging a woman out of a vehicle and chose to do something about it. Instead of looking away, he felt compelled to call 911 and this one act – a simple phone call – may have saved the lives of two 18-year-old girls.
Police arrived on the scene to find that a 39-year-old man from California had two Arkansas teenagers in his vehicle. Not only did he have both of their identifications in his possession, but a large amount of cash was also discovered. Detectives were called to investigate and an arrest followed.
This man has been charged with multiple counts of human trafficking and prostitution, and the victims are receiving the help they need. This was made possible because one person, an everyday citizen, noticed something and responded.
In this case, the sign that something was wrong was fairly obvious. But in some cases, the signs may not be so clear. We may have to look closer. We may have to ask questions and listen carefully to answers.
Hope For Justice, an organization based in Nashville, works to bring an end to sex trafficking & exploitation through education, empowerment, and quality restorative care. They provide a helpful list of indicators that someone may be a victim.
As a society, we cannot afford to look away. Spotting the signs can actually save lives, just as it did in the Ellicott City case.