NOT ONLY DOES SLAVERY STILL EXIST, IT IS THRIVING.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are currently enslaved in some form. Modern slavery consists of human trafficking for physical labor or sex. The victims include women, young girls and boys, and LGBTQ youth, who are often coerced into prostitution. We may think modern slavery only takes place in faraway lands, but it’s happening right here, right now.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Long Island and New York City are in the top 20 locations for sex trafficking in the U.S. Most recently, three Long Islanders were charged with human trafficking and child prostitution. Long Island’s access to transportation (airports, rail roads, boats) and its dense population make it easier to target and move people unnoticed. What most see as a disgusting and illegal act is a lucrative business for others. Sex trafficking generates approximately $9.5 billion annually in the U.S. alone.
In 2008, this crisis resulted in the New York State Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act being signed into law. The act ensures services for sexually exploited youth and guarantees that they are to be treated as child victims, rather than prosecuted as criminals. As such, our Safe Harbour program was founded and operates in Suffolk County to provide treatment and protection for children who have been, or who are at-risk of being, sexually exploited. The program has seen over a 50% increase in clients, serving 92 young people so far this year.
So who is at-risk? The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that 74% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. were likely in the foster care or social service systems when they disappeared and were exploited. While certain vulnerable populations are more heavily targeted than others, anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking.
These statistics are scary and can be overwhelming; however, we must remain hopeful and above all, we must be active.
Visit Safe Harbour’s Facebook and join the conversation.
To learn more about our fight against child trafficking in Suffolk County and how you can help, click here.
* * *
Cassandra Huneke was the Special Events Coordinator for 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. Cassandra will be teaching media literacy to at-risk kids in our Alternatives for Youth program this fall.