LABELLE — According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose. Every year, millions of men, women and children worldwide — including in the United States — are victims of human trafficking.” By presidential proclamation, January 2021 has been decreed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“If you commit to do just one thing to mark National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January 2021, the single best action you can take is to learn how to spot the signs of trafficking. It is a key time for us all as individuals to educate ourselves about human trafficking and crucially to learn to spot the signs of trafficking,” said human trafficking survivor-turned-activist Victoria Lyle. “While it’s not a subject many want to talk about, it will help to stay informed and spread awareness in the workplace, church, school, with local and state representatives, and anywhere else.”
Lyle, a LaBelle resident, says she knows firsthand what it’s like to be trafficked, to finally escape, and to have rescued countless others from a similar fate. She said while victims are usually kept secluded and are not allowed to make contact with the public, sometimes people encounter individuals who are in trouble and need help.
Activists like Lyle have stressed the importance of knowing how to spot the signs of a person in trouble. “It can and does save lives. Several indicators can be considered, if you are suspicions that a human trafficking situation is occurring,” said Lyle, “Victims are often lured into another country by false promises and so may not easily trust others.”
Victims of slavery or human trafficking may also:
• Be fearful of police
Knowing the indicators or red flags of potential labor and sexual trafficking victims is one step, but how else can you make a difference? Lyle said there are many things you can do, such as to “buy fair trade, responsibly sourced items. Volunteer at a local shelter, mentor in reading programs. Spread awareness, tell others what you’ve learned, and If you suspect someone is being trafficked, report it. Be a voice — speak up for those who have no voice.”
The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office also wanted use this month as an opportunity to shed light on the problem of slavery and human trafficking by informing the community of what they can do to prevent these heinous crimes. Check their Facebook page throughout January for awareness tips: https://m.facebook.com/hendrysheriff/.
Help is available 24 hours, seven days a week in English, Spanish and 200 more languages. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888, or Text “HELP” or “INFO” to: 233733.
The website can be found at: humantraffickinghotline.org.