(Brianna, Survivor Leader, has a special message for law enforcement)
For the past 20 years, Shared Hope International has been working to bring justice to vulnerable adults and children who have survived and overcome being commercially sexually exploited. Our small but powerful team of 18 staffers has managed to secure a global network and reach, leading prevention strategies, restoration programs, and justice initiatives to combat trafficking in the United States and abroad.
The women and children we serve are no strangers to having their lives turned upside down, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, many of the women and children we serve domestically are being made more vulnerable as resources are cut off with the reality of school closings, lack of childcare, layoffs, and more.
Due to the limitations on schooling and resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a substantial increase in screen time for children; with limited ability of parents to supervise all online educational programming, there is an increased vulnerability to online exploitation. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has experienced a 90.46% increase in CyberTipline (the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children) reports of suspected child sexual abuse between January and June 2020 versus the same time period in 2019.
Unfortunately, we’re hearing from our law enforcement friends and our community-based partners that sex traffickers and buyers aren’t slowing down during this pandemic and are continuing to entrap more vulnerable youth with false promises. Despite the challenges that have risen during these uniquely challenging times, our resolve to protect children and restore survivors has only strengthened and we will not quit until every child is safe.
That’s why we support this year’s United Nations’ global plan of action which includes concrete actions to prevent trafficking in persons, protect and assist victims, prosecute related crimes and strengthen partnerships among Governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, including the media. The Action Plan also includes the decision to establish a United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to be managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Additionally, the issue of human trafficking will be mainstreamed into broader United Nations policies and programs on economic and social development, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, education, and natural disaster and post-conflict reconstruction.
The UN’s global plan of action includes World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and this year’s theme focuses on recognizing the work of first responders. These are the people who work in different sectors – identifying, supporting, counseling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers. During COVID-19, the role of first responders has become even more important, particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.
(Rev. Marian Hatcher, Survivor Leader and Ambassador-At-Large for United Nations, on working with law enforcement)
We see this day not just as an occasion, but as an opportunity to educate the public about the scourge of human trafficking and to mobilize a political force and the resources needed to truly address the source of the problem. We are running full speed towards the UN’s call to action. Everyone, not just first responders and government entities, can take action to stop trafficking before it ever happens.
So what can you do to support World Day Against Trafficking on July 30th? Consider the following actions as a great place to start.
- Celebrate and highlight the work of first responders in your county, community or organization.
- Share, like, and comment on our World Day social media posts or messages about World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
- Offer to volunteer or donate to services that provide on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking. For more ideas, check out Shared Hope’s Action Center for simple take action tools and ways to give.
We hope you will join our team at Shared Hope International as we stand with the UN on World Day Against Trafficking, carrying forward our mission to end this evil. We believe that together we can end human trafficking once and for all.