If you drive around Washington, D.C., during pre-dawn hours, you are likely to see it happening in the shadows. Indeed, it is happening nationwide—in every state.
“It” is human trafficking—modern slavery. In other words: pure evil.
January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time to focus on a topic that is difficult to discuss and confront. However, no matter where one stands politically, surely all of us can agree: This evil practice must end.
My Own Involvement
I have been devoted to this cause for 15 years. Through the Human Trafficking Legal Center, I have assisted in connecting trafficking survivors with pro bono representation. But my original interest and involvement with the cause was through FAIR Girls, a local organization here in Washington, D.C., that has received national recognition for its anti-trafficking work from the Office of Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice.
As the new board chair of FAIR Girls, I am using my business experience to help this nonprofit succeed in the essential endeavor to provide intervention, safe transitional housing, and trauma-informed services to female survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
I also feel particularly called to be someone who elevates the humanity of trafficking victims. The stories are wrenching.
We know from research, and the lived experiences that are shared with FAIR Girls, that young women and minors—children as young as 12—are targeted for exploitation. Traffickers capitalize on basic human needs: the need for shelter, food, love, and a feeling of belonging. Not surprisingly, those who are most vulnerable are females living in poverty and chaos. Communities of color, especially black communities, are particularly at risk. According to a two-year 2018 FBI report on suspected country-wide human trafficking incidents, 40% of sex trafficking victims were black (Louisiana Department 2018).
My Community, Your Community
The Washington, D.C., area is a hub for sex trafficking because we have a significant at-risk population as well as many people passing through as they travel up and down the seaboard. But human trafficking happens in rural areas as well as urban areas, along the coasts, and in our nation’s heartland.
What can you do?
You can educate yourself on this issue and use whatever platforms you are on to raise awareness. On its home page, FAIR Girls offers a video about what human trafficking looks like in the U.S.
You can also stand with victims by supporting organizations like FAIR Girls, the Human Trafficking Legal Center, or a local nonprofit near where you live. Ending human trafficking in our communities includes reducing the barriers faced by young women and girls being trafficked and assisting them in safely liberating themselves as well as gaining the skills, resources, and support they need to remain free.
You can also be alert. If you are in the United States and believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or report an emergency to law enforcement by calling 911. Trafficking victims, whether U.S. citizens or not, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
Finally, you can give your time and talents, as I have decided to do. It is not easy to face the horror of human trafficking. But if we are going to win this battle, it will take the collective efforts of us all. Along with the dedicated team at FAIR Girls, I am proud to be doing something.
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Jonathan Terrell is the Founder and President of KCIC. He has more than 30 years of international financial services experience with a multi-disciplinary background in accounting, finance and insurance. Prior to founding KCIC in 2002, he worked at Zurich Financial Services, JP Morgan, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Learn More About Jonathan