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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

During January, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we encourage you to learn more about human trafficking, which leads to grave human rights violations.  

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person to engage in commercial sex acts or solicit labor or services against their will.

Moreover, human trafficking often intersects with domestic violence. According to Freedom Network USA, a coalition of experts and advocates fighting human trafficking in the US, this intersection takes many forms, including:

  • when traffickers are also domestic violence offenders;
  • when traffickers use a victim’s complex experiences and history of abuse to further other forms of abuse;
  • when traffickers use an individual’s prior victimization to intimidate, control and further abuse them; and,
  • when the intersection of domestic violence and human trafficking impact a victim’s ability to trust institutions, state structures, and people in general.[1]

In NYS, sex trafficking and child sex trafficking are both class B felonies. NYS has passed several laws to raise awareness about and support survivors of human trafficking.

Just this year, the Legislature approved the following:

  • Chapter 80 of the Laws of 2022 which requires law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices to inform human trafficking victims of the availability of online information regarding social or legal services for such victims. The law also requires the agencies to offer to contact the appropriate service provider and connect the victim with such provider, when requested by the victim.
  • Chapter 387 of the Laws of 2022, which requires the display of posters on human trafficking by businesses with on-premises alcoholic beverage licenses that offer topless entertainment and/or exotic dancing.
  • Chapter 388 of the Laws of 2022, which requires information about services for human trafficking to be posted in Port Authority airports.
  • Chapter 389 of the Laws of 2022, which requires information about services for human trafficking victims to be posted at commercial service airports.
  • Chapter 390 of the Laws of 2022, which requires information about services for human trafficking victims to be posted in Port Authority bus terminals.
  • Chapter 391 of the Laws of 2022, which requires information about services for human trafficking victims to be posted in bathroom facilities at truck stops.
  • Chapter 392 of the Laws of 2022, which requires human trafficking awareness trainings to be included in all 34 bartending courses recognized by the NYS Liquor Authority as part of its Alcohol Training Awareness Program.
  • Chapter 393 of the Laws of 2022, which requires lodging facilities such as hotels and motels to have all employees who are likely to come into contact with guests complete a human trafficking recognition training program. Such training will include the nature of human trafficking, how human trafficking is defined in law, how to identify victims of human trafficking, who to contact, such as the National Human Trafficking Hotline, relief and recovery options, and social and legal services.
  • Chapter 394 of the Laws of 2022, which requires information about human trafficking to be posted in bathroom facilities at service areas maintained by the Thruway Authority.

This package of legislation builds on these existing laws that have been approved since 2018:

  • A law allowing human trafficking survivors to request their cases be moved to a specialized Human Trafficking Intervention Court located elsewhere in the county or an adjoining county if one exists;
  • A law requiring lodging facilities such as hotels and motels to post information on services available for human trafficking survivors and the National Human Trafficking Hotline number;
  • A law authorizing the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to contract with not-for-profits to create “short-term” and “long-term” safe housing residential facilities for human trafficking survivors;
  • A law eliminating the need for prosecutors to prove force, fraud or coercion to find an individual guilty of sex trafficking of a child under 18;
  • A law extending the rape shield law to sex trafficking victims; and,
  • A law enabling victims of human trafficking to be eligible to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program, which allows victims to shield their actual address from abusers and offenders.

Even with all this work accomplished, more needs to be done to raise awareness and support victims.

We can all do our part by learning the signs of human trafficking. With thousands of men, women and children being victimized every year, human trafficking can happen to individuals of any gender identity, age, race and nationality in any industry. Some common red flags to look out for include: if an individual is showing signs of abuse; if a person is being underpaid or not paid at all, is working excessive hours or in dangerous working conditions; if a person is unable to leave home or work premises; if a person doesn’t have personal documents such as ID, passport or social security card; and if the person is under 18 and working in the commercial sex industry.[3]

You can also participate in #WearBlueDay on January 11th by wearing blue to show your support and promote awareness of modern slavery.  And, take a selfie to spread the word, use #WearBlueDay and encourage everyone to take a selfie.

To learn more about human trafficking and its intersections with domestic violence, visit the following:

National Human Trafficking Hotline: What is Human Trafficking?

Polaris: Recognizing Human Trafficking

Administration for Children & Families Office on Trafficking in Persons: National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) – NHTTAC delivers training and technical assistance to inform and enhance the public health response to human trafficking.

Freedom Network: Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence

The Human Trafficking Legal Center: Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

Center for Abuse Prevention: Human Trafficking Awareness Month Toolkit

 

[1] Freedom Network USA. (2015). Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence. https://freedomnetworkusa.org/app/uploads/2016/12/HT-and-Domestic-Violence.pdf 

[2] Freedom Network USA. What Are the Signs of Trafficking? https://freedomnetworkusa.org/the-issue/. Accessed 15 December 2020.

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