January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

In 2010, President Barack Obama first declared January as the National Trafficking Prevention Month. Slavery and human trafficking are often considered a historic problem; however, it continues to be a growing global issue.  Worldwide, human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by trapping millions of people in appalling circumstances. Traffickers employ manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex, to provide forced labor, and/or to participate in other activities against their will.  Sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse that involves manipulation into exchanging a sexual act for money, drugs, shelter, food, transportation, love or acceptance.  Forced labor is found in the following areas: agriculture and fishing, domestic work, construction, mining, quarrying and brick kilns, manufacturing, processing and packaging, market trading, and illegal activities.  Human trafficking continues to be a lucrative business, albeit a criminal one.  In the United Nations Report, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020, the data reflects:


January has been designated as the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to raise awareness of the increasing number of trafficking instances being reported. 

It is important for the community to be aware of the warning signs of trafficked and exploited persons.  The warning signs of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to: secrecy regarding daily routines or new relationships, disappearing for extended periods of time, wearing expensive clothing or jewelry that he/she could not afford, a significantly older boyfriend, and/or acquiring a cell phone that was not purchased by parents.  It is important to note that some of these characteristics may appear to be behaviors of a typical teenager; however, if they do emerge, it is important to discuss concerns with the teenager.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has created a resource list to help educate and inform families/caregivers, healthcare professionals, justice system professionals, policymakers, and survivors on human trafficking signs and services for human trafficking survivors. 

The warning signs of forced labor include but are not limited to: appearing to be under the control of another person, unwilling to interact with others, lacking personal identification or personal belongings, distrusting of authorities, looking unkempt or malnourished, displaying untreated injuries, and/or inability to move around freely.  Traffickers use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor against their will.

As advocates, there are several policy considerations that can be supported.  Human trafficking is a multifaceted crime that requires a multi-sectoral response.  Currently, there are multiple agencies addressing human trafficking: law enforcement, labor inspectors, national human rights institutions, child protective services, and social/ mental health organizations. In spite of current efforts, there are documented needs to strengthen legislation that will equip specialized agencies with the ability to implement more effective identification, protection, and redress for human trafficking victims.  Enforceable legislation needs to be passed to incentivize companies to put practices in place to prevent the trafficking of persons in their supply chains.  Additionally, economic sanctions need to be utilized to target companies and their management profiting by exploitation.  

Effective anti-trafficking legislation needs to be established by governments to proactively address online markets and networks.  As advocates for the ending of human trafficking, we need to urge our elected officials to oppose legislation that reduces foreign aid.  Cuts In foreign aid would reduce the Department of Labor International Labor Bureau funding to combat worldwide human trafficking.

Victims of human trafficking produce goods that are sold worldwide. Being a conscientious consumer is one of the best ways to combat human trafficking. Know the sources of the goods and services you purchase. Whenever possible, buy fairly or ethically traded products.  To learn more about products produced by child labor or forced labor, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, click here

Please take time in January learn more about the depth of human tracking: 

  • U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking has an extensive toolkit for January’s month, including information and prayer services; click here to access the toolkit.  
  • For excellent links and resources on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, click here
  • Department of Justice 2021 data to use for educating about human trafficking, click here

If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline – 1-888-373-7888

or go to the Hotline chat by clicking here.

En Español aqui.