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Archives Human trafficking: It happens here

February 14, 2024

By the Sisters of St. Joseph
Social Justice Committee

When you hear the words ‘human trafficking’ what is your first thought? There are many myths about it that are simply not true. Here are some common myths and misconceptions about human trafficking:
Myth: Human trafficking does not occur in the United States. It only happens in other countries.
Fact: Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States. It exists nationwide – in cities, suburbs, and rural towns – and possibly in your own community.

Myth: Human trafficking victims are only foreign born individuals and those who are poor.
Fact: Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. They may come from any socioeconomic group. A socioeconomic group is the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation

Myth: Human trafficking is only sex trafficking.
Fact: Sex trafficking exists, but it is not the only type of human trafficking. Forced labor is another type of human trafficking; both involve exploitation of people. Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and domestic service.

Myth: Individuals must be forced or coerced into commercial sex acts to be victims of human trafficking.
Fact: Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.

Myth: Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same.
Fact: Human trafficking is not the same as smuggling. “Trafficking” is based on exploitation and does not require movement across borders. “Smuggling” is based on movement and involves moving a person across a country’s border with that person’s consent in violation of immigration laws. Although human smuggling is very different from human trafficking, human smuggling can turn into trafficking if the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion to hold people against their will for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. Under federal law, every minor induced to engage in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking

Myth: Human trafficking victims will attempt to seek help when in public.
Fact: Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Victims may be afraid to come forward and get help; they may be forced or coerced through threats or violence; they may fear retribution from traffickers, including danger to their families; and they may not be in possession of or have control of their identification documents.

Could you identify with any of these myths? If so, you are not alone. You may have been one of the millions of people who viewed the film “Sound of Freedom” in a local theater last year. It starred Jim Caviezel who played the role of Christ in the movie “The Passion.” He plays Tim Ballard, a former U.S. government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers  in Colombia.

When the actor is asked why he embarked on this dangerous mission to rescue this little girl, his answer was “God’s children are not for sale!” This powerful film based on real life has opened the eyes of many to the reality of this heinous crime against humanity. While the film focuses on human trafficking in another country, the reality is that it exists here in our Country in nearly every zip code.

What is our role in ending human trafficking?
In the struggle to end slavery in our country in the 1800’s it was religious individuals and groups who were at the forefront of this movement. Today there are more women, men and children who are slaves than ever before in human history. Human trafficking is the second largest organized crime in the world and it is happening right here in our own backyard. As people of faith, as Christians, “what is our role in ending this reality of human trafficking?” If people of faith in the nineteenth century became advocates for freeing slaves in their time, how can we become actively involved in this work now?

Taking action against human trafficking
First Action is prayer. On Feb. 8, we celebrated the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita. As a young girl in southern Sudan in 1869, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She was brutally treated by her captors as she was sold and resold. After years of abuse, a white merchant brought her and brought her to Italy. It is there that she was baptized and became a religious sister of Sudanese-Italian Canossian in Italy. There she ministered for over 45 years. She is the patron saint of victims of Human Trafficking. Prayer is a powerful means to bring about conversion for the perpetrators and for those who are enslaved.

Second action is learn. On Sunday, March 3, there are two information presentations being offered by interfaith groups in our Diocese on the topic of human trafficking. The goal of these programs is twofold: first, to help protect God’s Children by educating and challenging others to take informed action; and secondly, to consider the role of our faith communities in the challenge of ending human trafficking. See the box on this page for details.

Third is ACTION: Explore ways to share this information with others through your local parish, youth groups and parents. For more information and resources, see:
•United states Conference of Bishops Human Trafficking

• Alliance To End Human Trafficking: Founded & Supported By U.S. Catholic Sisters

• St. Josephine Bahkita Prayers

• Blue Campaign U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

Prayer: Loving God, rewarder of the humble, You blessed St. Josephine Bakhita with charity and patience. May her prayers help us, and her example inspire us to carry our cross and to love You always. Pour upon us the spirit of wisdom and love with which You filled St. Josephine. By serving You as she did, may we please You by our faith and our actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen

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