Spreading Awareness: January serves as Human Trafficking Prevention Month

A new year means calling attention to an ongoing issue in our country and worldwide. January is human trafficking prevention month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about sex and labor trafficking.

According to the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking is just one of the umbrella terms to refer to “a crime whereby traffickers exploit and profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex.”

“What it (human trafficking prevention month) tries to accomplish is raise awareness and talk about what human trafficking actually means and how to allow people to understand the signs of potential human trafficking and how to report potential crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit.

Human trafficking is a consistently under-reported crime despite the rise in awareness. The National Human Trafficking Hotline says this is due to the “covert nature, misconceptions about its definition, and a lack of awareness about its indicators.”

On Jan. 12, 2024, the U.S. Attorney’s office released a PSA highlighting Human Trafficking Prevention Month and the importance of being informed of the warning signs and red flags to watch out for.

One of the organizations in the state of Idaho is the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition (IATC). Their stated mission is to “work alongside community members in providing awareness, education, services and safe housing for victims of human trafficking in Idaho.”

The IATC provides a wide range of resources available to the public that promotes education and understanding of the issue of human trafficking.

Something the U.S. Attorney’s office wanted to highlight is the many different forms of human trafficking that occur.

“People are brought into this country and forced into, essentially, servitude where they don’t have actual wages, they aren’t free to go about their day, they aren’t free to go find other employment. They’re being exploited and tied to a specific employer,” said Hurwitt.

An example of this is in 2022 when a Boise man was sentenced to 77 months in federal prison for transporting women for the purposes of prostitution and money laundering.

Attorney Hurwitt said it is an under-reported crime, which is why the raising of awareness is so crucial. There could be many reasons as to why these crimes go unreported. 

This stems from the lack of awareness in what to look for or understanding what the red flags might be. There is also an underlying issue of a victim’s immigration status and the fear of reporting due to that.

People may not report human trafficking because they don’t understand what the signs of human trafficking look like. Undocumented victims may not report for fear of deportation or other punitive measures.

“If we have someone who is undocumented and is a victim of a crime, they’re obviously going to be concerned about reporting to law enforcement because they are worried about their immigration status,” said Hurwitt.

 However, for cases of human trafficking, undocumented immigrants can obtain visas to help prosecute the perpetrator.

“We don’t look at that when we are dealing with a victim. In fact, there are programs for victims of crimes in this country, if they’re here without legal status, they can actually obtain visas because we want them to be here to be able to help us be able to prosecute the crimes and have justice,” Hurwitt said.

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