HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH PRESENTS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR VICTIMS’ VOICES TO BE HEARD
Human trafficking is an illegal multi-billion-dollar industry in which individuals are forced to engage in commercial sex, labor, or other services against their will. This modern day slavery occurs on a global scale and even happens in our own neighborhoods. Our Safe Harbour program, in partnership with Suffolk County Department of Social Services, works with youth that are at high risk of being sexually exploited and trafficked.
We recently attended a press conference with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to highlight January as National Human Trafficking Month. At the conference, Bellone asked Suffolk County residents to raise awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking on social media. He further discussed how local agencies are working to help victims and prevent trafficking in the local community.
Shannon Honce, Safe Harbour’s Case Coordinator, has worked with youth in every town of Suffolk County. In 2016, we served 115 youth that were either at risk or confirmed victims of sexual exploitation. That is a 61.7% increase in youth served from 2015.
These young people used to be prosecuted by the law, even though they had been manipulated or threatened into forced labor. Now, thanks to the Safe Harbour Law, victims are treated as such and are provided with services like medical exams, counseling, and other community-based resources to help their recovery.
Safe Harbour helps youth in Suffolk County work through their traumatic experiences with case management, vocational services, peer specialists, medical exams, and therapy referrals. The program also provides training to community members to educate them on what’s happening in their community, as well as how to correctly identify and correctly report human trafficking. Knowing the signs of possible abuse, including fearful or anxious behavior, the appearance of physical harm, and the inability to come and go at will, could lead an individual to identify a situation, report it to the authorities, free a victim, and bring a human trafficker to justice. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking across the globe. A young person who needs help may be closer to you than you think. Be aware and don’t ignore the signs if something seems off.
Do you want to know if human trafficking is happening where you live? Check out this map from Polaris that shows how prevalent trafficking is in your area.
Learn more about human trafficking! Join us and human trafficking victim, Jen Spry, on January 26th at Stony Brook University. For more information, click here.
If you or someone you know is being sexually exploited or trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733) for assistance.
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Cassandra Huneke was the Development & Marketing Specialist at EAC Network. She graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.A. in English and is currently completing her Master’s Degree in Media Studies at The New School University in New York City.