February 11, 2013
Human trafficking impacts innocent people – young and old – all around the world. Child soldiers in the Congo, sexual slavery in Southeast Asia, and even forced slavery here in New Jersey.
The footage we see on television or the stories we read in a magazine often focus on the brutal treatment of innocents in countries a world away. In fact, human trafficking – or modern-day slavery – has spread much closer to home.
Due to New Jersey’s proximity to New York City, extensive transportation network, and diverse population, the State has, unfortunately, become a hub for all forms of human trafficking.
The plight of trafficked innocents is cruel no matter where it happens, yet its growth in our own neighborhoods and communities makes understanding the problem and potential solutions even more important.
Human Trafficking: The Problem
Improved coordination between governments and international organizations has increased awareness of the causes and consequences of human trafficking. However, modern-day slavery has only accelerated as trafficking networks remain obscured by political structures, social stereotypes, and complicit law enforcement. In 2011, the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report increased previous estimates of human trafficking victims – including forced labor and other forms of trafficking – to 27 million men, women and children.
Traffickers will often coerce, defraud, force and recruit their victims for commercial sexual slavery or involuntary servitude. Victims of human trafficking can be disparate – from Congolese child soldiers to educated Caucasian women in the United States, and displaced orphans in Haiti to migrant domestic workers in Europe. While socioeconomic station and political conditions can heighten vulnerability and expose certain populations to greater risk for exploitation, the notion that human trafficking is confined by geography or demographics is a myth. Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that defies borders, government initiatives, international law and social stereotypes.
Human Trafficking In New Jersey
Supporting anti-trafficking programs is an opportunity to effect multilevel change. Local efforts toward prevention, protection, and prosecution can subvert national and international trafficking networks. Local and international anti-trafficking organizations are committed to building long-term solutions while providing immediate assistance for those in need. For example, the Polaris Project works with New Jersey law enforcement to identify victims and to provide assistance with medical, housing and financial needs for victims coping with unimaginable trauma. Anti-trafficking programs like Polaris also provide extensive training and education for on-the-ground advocates and task forces.
Human trafficking is among the great humanitarian crises of the 21st century, but it’s one that can be stopped — no matter where it occurs. In New Jersey, individual and community support for victim services is particularly essential in a state that receives no federal funding for anti-trafficking organizations.