Human trafficking, a sinister crime that shatters lives and defies the boundaries of human decency, is a violation of human rights. The stereotypical view of trafficking as involving only prostitution has evolved, revealing a much broader and more disturbing reality, including forced labor. A personal encounter with the harrowing consequences of human trafficking opened my eyes to the hidden depths of this issue, urging me to emphasize the pivotal role utility workers can play in combating this threat.
In January 2021, the issue went from the abstract to the personal when my great nephew disappeared. As the details emerged, it became evident that he had been ensnared in a web of emotional abuse, psychological manipulation, and captivity. Tragically, the signs of his suffering were overlooked, reminding us of the responsibility we all share in safeguarding those vulnerable to such horrors.
One might wonder, what can utility workers do about this crisis? We have a role to play in ending this scourge because we are the eyes and ears of our communities. The nature of our work often puts us in direct contact with a wide array of people, giving us access to detect signs of abuse, unusual behavior, or distress that might indicate human trafficking. By being vigilant and responsive to these cues, utility workers can play a significant role in preventing and intervening in trafficking situations.
The realm of modern technology and online platforms has facilitated the manipulation and exploitation of countless victims. From dating sites to social media, predators exploit the vulnerabilities of both adults and children. As union members and responsible citizens, it is crucial to be proactive in protecting our loved ones. Open conversations about the dangers of the internet, creating safety plans, and monitoring online activities are essential steps in preventing individuals from becoming targets. By fostering a culture of awareness and vigilance, we can significantly curtail the avenues through which traffickers operate.
My personal encounter underscored for me the importance of collective action — and that utility workers have a pivotal role to play in this mission. As the unsung guardians of our communities, our attentiveness and responsiveness can save lives. By raising awareness, fostering open dialogues, and engaging in preventive measures, we can help dismantle the insidious networks of trafficking and ensure a safer world for all.
Modern day slavery exists. If you suspect it, report it! Call the US Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-7888. The FBI estimates that 750,000 child predators are on-line at any given moment. If you suspect on-line enticement, call: 800-THE-LOST or visit A21.org/canyouseeme