We all can build awareness to end human trafficking
During Human Trafficking Awareness Month each January, you read, hear, and see more about commercial sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and human trafficking. We and our partners will be sharing facts and figures about the impact of human trafficking, and promoting reminders to say something when you see something.
And although awareness is important, alone it is insufficient. Truly combatting the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth requires changes to laws, policies, and practices; multidisciplinary collaboration; and above all, a commitment to fostering youth and survivor leadership. That is what we do through the Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law.
We focus on the young people facing these circumstances, and see them beyond their victimization. Children and youth impacted by trafficking have big hopes and dreams. They want and deserve love, support, and care from families and communities. They are students, friends, business owners, community members, healers, artists, parents, and they are formidable advocates initiating and leading big change.
When we take the time to ask what young people and survivors need, they come up with creative solutions grounded in their experiences. For example, NCYL, along with the Justice for Survivors Coalition, successfully advocated for passage of the Justice for Survivors Act (2021), and are introducing legislation this session to ensure the circumstances of all survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and human trafficking are considered when a survivor is charged with a crime. Young peoples’ voices also motivated our team at NCYL to create bench cards for judges about commercial sexual exploitation so that they treat young people they encounter in their courtrooms in trauma-informed, youth-centered ways. And members of the CSEC Action Team’s Advisory Board along with NCYL’s Reproductive Health Equity Project, have provided first-of-its-kind training to improve the way survivors are supported through reproductive experiences.
We know no single person, community, or organization can end human trafficking, but together we can provide children and youth the support they need to heal and be cared for. During Human Trafficking Awareness Month and beyond, we urge you to engage in these conversations, learn about the impact of trafficking in your community, and partner with us to end the commodification of children and youth.