As the school year begins, LifeWay Network has created a back-to-school guide to help students, parents and teachers build an understanding of the realities of and prevent human trafficking.
What is human trafficking?
Under federal law, human trafficking is the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion for forced labor, service or commercial sex.1 Causing a child under the age of 18 to perform a commercial sex act, with or without force, fraud or coercion, is human trafficking under U.S. law. Various forms of force, fraud or coercion can be used by traffickers to control and exploit victims, which can include debt bondage, deceptive job opportunities, withholding wages, violence or threats of violence.
Who is most vulnerable?
While human trafficking victims can be of any gender, age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, traffickers often prey on victims’ vulnerabilities. According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, some young people are more vulnerable to being trafficked than others, with the most vulnerable groups tending to share histories of poverty or unstable housing, lack of social or family support systems, previous traumatic experiences or abuse, or immigration status. Other vulnerable youth groups include:
- runaway and/or homeless youth
- youth involved in the welfare system and/or juvenile justice system
- students who dropped out of school
- students with intellectual and developmental disabilities or differences
- LGBTQ+ youth
- undocumented or unaccompanied migrant youth
Where are traffickers reaching victims?
Traffickers can be of any gender, age or race and can be romantic partners, employers, community leaders, family members, friends, peers or strangers. Traffickers can also reach their victims in many ways, including via online platforms. It is important that communities continue to raise awareness of the realities of trafficking, help youth understand the implications of using online platforms and learn the best ways to protect themselves from online exploitation to prevent human trafficking.
It is also crucial to raise awareness and support youth in identifying factors that can help protect youth from exploitation and potential trafficking situations. Protective factors to help prevent human trafficking can include fostering a sense of community by building and establishing healthy and trusting relationships with friends, peers, family and community members; establishing an environment of acceptance and support, where youth can talk about safe dating, healthy relationships and signs of abuse; and encouraging youth to speak to a trusted adult if they suspect they or someone they know is experiencing exploitation or need help.
What can you do?
- Use LifeWay’s student activity guide to learn more about human trafficking and how students can get involved in the movement: https://lifewaynetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/LifeWay-Network-Student-Club-Activity-Guide-2022.pdf
- Learn more about protecting children from online exploitation and why LifeWay supports the EARN IT Act: https://endsexualexploitation.org/earnit/
- Increase your community’s awareness of the anti-trafficking movement by requesting a public speaking engagement. Email Josephine Crisostomo, director of education, training and advocacy at LifeWay Network, at [email protected].
- Stay connected with LifeWay Network and show your support by attending our upcoming events: https://lifewaynetwork.org/lifeway-network-events/
- Learn more about the anti-trafficking movement in New York State and why LifeWay stands with the New Yorkers for the Equality Model to protect survivors and victims of trafficking: https://www.equalitymodelny.org/
By Beatrice Johnson & Josephine Crisostomo