When we learn about slavery, we read history textbooks that tell of a time of oppression and chains before the Civil War. We don’t learn about the slavery that still exists in America, even here in our area. It is called human trafficking. It isn’t as obvious as a slave auction in the middle of town, but it still happens all around us. We just need to know what to look for. So, why don’t we talk about modern slavery in schools? We learn about slavery as if it is history, but no one tells us that the work of abolitionists is not finished.
Schools educate about the past, but right now there are an estimated 60,000 slaves
in America. Slavery is here, but students are oblivious. In 2018, 5,147 cases were reported to the Human Trafficking Hotline. The state of Pennsylvania reported 127 cases to the same hotline. Most of these victims are young adults, if not teenagers.
The case is usually that of a trafficker luring a teen in a vulnerable situation. Social media is an easy way to find and trap insecure teens. One way to stay safe is to always think before posting. If social media asks for your location, turn it off. Don’t text anyone you don’t know on any website. These simple precautions seem cliche, but they really do make a difference in our safety.
There are also tactics outside of social media that traffickers use. For example, a trafficker may suddenly decide to be your “friend” and give you gifts. Don’t trust a stranger that offers a better place to live and make money. Manipulation like this can be hard to identify; the trafficker wants their victim to feel stuck and helpless. They are looking for those who are ignorant and therefore vulnerable. If we’re all ignorant, then doesn’t that mean they’re looking for us?
As teenagers, we can take the initiative by speaking up. We are a generation that is being attacked by this ancient injustice. We can make a change. We can look out for anyone who is reluctant to make eye contact and share personal information. A victim of human trafficking may dress inappropriately, seem weak and bear physical injuries. These people are slaves, but the steps we take can free them.
If you see anything that is suspicious or unusual, please contact the human trafficking hotline: 1 (888) 373 7888. Those involved in this crime need specialized care, so if you think someone you know is being trafficked, do not speak directly to them. Contact the hotline immediately, or talk to a trusted adult. By doing this, the victim can receive further help in recovering from this traumatic experience.
Our dream is to prevent human trafficking in Elizabethtown and America. Please help us raise awareness for this cause, both in our school and in our community. Doing something as simple as donating to a local organization, or volunteering at a homeless shelter can truly make a difference. We haven’t even achieved freedom in what is claimed to be “the land of the free.” In order to have freedom, we must face slavery. But are we really? We are kids acknowledging this global issue that is in our hometown. Remember that you have rights and responsibilities. Knowledge is power. Have the power to end human trafficking.