Next week in Brooklyn, the Plymouth Church and Restore organizations are hosting a social justice event: In Our Backyard: How to Affect Change for Trafficking Survivors in Our Own City. The program provides information about human trafficking, as well as resources for identifying and advocating for the needs of trafficking survivors.

In Our Backyard
Image courtesy of Plymouth Church event page.

Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery In Our Backyard

There are an estimated 57,000 people enslaved in the United States for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The National Human Trafficking Hotline estimate as high as 1.5 million people in North America are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking or trafficking in persons is against international and U.S. federal and state laws. Human trafficking’s purpose involves sexual exploitation and/or labor. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 supports victims of sex and labor trafficking in the U.S. The Act defines human trafficking as controlling a victim by “force, fraud, or coercion” to perform labor or commercial sex acts against their will.

Although trafficking victims are predominantly women and girls, the crime exploits people across the world. Trafficking victims can be of any age, gender, culture, or race. As the Hotline’s website indicates, trafficking in persons is “one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.” However, due to the covert and insidious nature of the crime, recognizing human trafficking is difficult.

Cases such as the flight attendant who correctly identified a human trafficking incident and rescued a young woman sometimes make the news. Astute community members may contact organizations such as the National Human Trafficking Hotline to alert them of possible victims. The statistics are staggering. For example, in 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline had 4,460 reported trafficking cases, with 13,897 calls. Additionally, there are four times as many illicit massage venues – known for trafficking women for sex – than there are Starbucks in New York City alone.

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Reporting Crimes and Helping Survivors: The New Abolitionists

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month. As a result, two organizations in New York City, Restore and the Plymouth Church, are collaborating to bring awareness to the issue. Plymouth’s anti-human trafficking ministry has a New Abolitionist program chaired by Beth Fliesher. Fleisher, whose husband is Chris Claremont of X-MEN fame, is a driving force in the historic abolitionist church’s efforts to advocate for survivors of human trafficking. Fleisher and the advocates from Restore have joined forces for the January 28th event to educate and promote social change in New York City. The program is an important opportunity to learn how to help prevent violence against trafficking victims.

In Our Backyard
Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. Original image from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views.

The two groups are screening Danielle Rose’s award-winning documentary In Our Backyard. The film chronicles the stories of three sex trafficking survivors in Brooklyn, New York. The investigatory film highlights the work of law enforcement, advocacy groups, and communities to support survivors and stop trafficking. While the film focuses on Brooklyn, the city serves as an example of how human trafficking affects America. Additionally, Rose’s film provides a voice for survivors of slavery. In Our Backyard takes a frank look at the human trafficking epidemic. But the film also demonstrates that there are tools to combat the social justice issue. One such tool is education.

In Our Backyard: How to Affect Change for Trafficking Survivors in Our Own City will be held at the Plymouth Church on Sunday, January 28th at 12:30 pm. You will have a chance to see Danielle Rose’s film and learn more about how to support survivors. The program will provide information about how to take direct action against human trafficking.

For more information about identifying human trafficking and how to report it, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline. A state-by-state directory of resources is also available here.

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