January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Jan. 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis that is a form of modern day slavery. Not only is human trafficking prevalent around the world, but cases of human trafficking are reported in all 50 states.
The Lenawee Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition will be hosting an online panel forum titled “A Look into Human Trafficking” at 7 p.m. Jan. 28. Here is the lineup:
• “What is Human Trafficking? — Laura Schultz Pipis, associate director, United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties and Lenawee Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition co-facilitator.
• “Raising Our Consciousness about Human Trafficking” — Patricia McDonald, O.P., professor of counselor education at Siena Heights University.
• “Human Trafficking Trends” — Kelly Castleberry, victim advocate/forensic interviewer, Child Advocacy Center.
To attend, please email LenaweeantiHTCoalition@gmail.com to RSVP and a Zoom meeting link will be sent to you. You can call 517-264-6821 for more information as well.
Human trafficking victims are trafficked for a variety of purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work or other forms of labor. The face of human trafficking can be rich, poor, men, women, adults, children, foreign national or U.S. citizens. They are all generally vulnerable in some way, but all victims share the loss of a most-cherished human right — freedom.
The Polaris Project hosts the national Human Trafficking Hotline and conducts extensive research on human trafficking. Their research shows there are 25 industries who utilize human trafficking in the United States. Human trafficking is a market-based economy that exists on principles of supply and demand. It is a high-profit enterprise with limited or low risks.
Human trafficking is illegal under international, federal and Michigan state law. The Federal Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Michigan Penal Code (2006 and revised in 2017), address underage minors and adults involved in all forms of human trafficking, affected by the use of force, fraud or coercion (i.e. manipulation by traffickers or perpetrators). As a society, we are seeking to better understand the nuances of trafficking.
It is a power and control issue, similar to domestic violence and sexual assault. Because of the secretive, coercive nature of human trafficking, it is hard to find an exact figure of how many people are trafficked in the United States. Moreover, because of the use of force, fraud or coercion to keep people under the influence of traffickers, much goes unreported.
In Lenawee County, there has been an Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force — or Coalition — for over 10 years, formed initially through the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Their goal has been to promote education, awareness and advocacy of human trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition is part of a larger group called the Lenawee Coalition Against Abuse and Trafficking (LenCAAT) that also addresses domestic violence and sexual assault. This leadership group is representative of the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Advocacy Center, Catherine Cobb Safe House, ProMedica Hickman Hospital sexual assault nurse examiner, Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office, United Way, Adrian Dominican Sisters and area mental health professionals. As a group, these agencies address human trafficking from a legal, mental and physical health perspective. They understand the nuances of this issue.
I have been a part of both the Monroe and Lenawee County anti-human trafficking coalitions, collectively for over eight years. This is a subject dear to me, as dark as it is. It breaks my heart.
I asked my father, who is retired from a 38-year law enforcement career in Monroe County, how he handled dealing with such dire human situations like human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault. I asked him, “How did you handle it when you could not help everyone or ensure all perpetrators are held accountable for their actions?” He told me, “You win some, you lose some, and you go back to fight another day.”
You can help fight human trafficking by reading more about it, having a Lenawee County coalition member speak to your group, or simply helping mentor vulnerable youth in your sphere of influence. There are many ways to get more information about human trafficking.
The Department of Homeland Security has an excellent awareness campaign called the Blue Campaign (www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign). The Polaris Project is home to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) and they have great information as well (www.polarisproject.org). There is also a very active Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force (www.mhttf.org). The Catherine Cobb Safe House is also a good resource on violence against women issues: 517-265-5352 or www.fccsoflenawee.org.
For more information about Human Trafficking, you can contact Laura Schultz Pipis at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 517-264-6821. You can also contact Amanda Davis Scott, Child Advocacy Center, email@example.com or by calling 517-662-3442.
Please note that the United Way is also hosting another 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge from Feb. 1-21. The challenge is a self-guided learning journey designed to deepen participants’ understanding of, and willingness to confront, racism. Participants will engage in a series of readings, videos, podcasts and daily reflections as part of the program.
The challenge facilitates a way for participants to identify and commit to their actions to advance racial equity. Participants can register at www.unitedwayMLC.org anytime between now and Jan. 31.
Laura Schultz Pipis is the associate director of the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties.