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World Day Against Trafficking highlights societal scourge

United Way Lenawee Monroe web logo

United Way Lenawee Monroe web logo

July 30 is World Day Against Trafficking. This effort is primarily spearheaded by the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign to “Reach Every Victim of Trafficking — Leave No One Behind”. Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis that is a form of modern-day slavery. Not only is human trafficking prevalent around the world, but also cases of human trafficking are reported in all 50 states. The recent movie “Sound of Freedom” has also helped to highlight this human trafficking crisis.

Laura Schultz Pipis, executive director of the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties

Laura Schultz Pipis, executive director of the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties

The Lenawee Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition (LAHTC) is encouraging everyone to wear blue on July 30 in honor of World Day Against Trafficking. The group will also be helping the Lenawee Zonta Club host a FREE showing of the “Ring of Silence” film on Thursday, Aug. 24. at the Croswell Opera House. The reception starts at 5:30 p.m. with a showing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and a Q & A after the film. Per the trailer, this film was “created to passionately tell the stories of countless victims that have been trapped, bought, and sold into the underground world of human sex trafficking. Witness the signs, terror and manipulation that this business entails.” Recommended for ages 14 and older. Panelists Amanda Davis Scott, MS, MA, LPC-S, CAADC (from Zonta) and Sister Patricia McDonald, O.P. (from LAHTC) will be on hand to help answer questions.

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. citizen. 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. It is illegal under international, federal and Michigan state law. The Federal Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Michigan Penal Code 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 better understanding of 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. We do know that human trafficking is in every county and state in the United States.

Please see the Lenawee Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition Facebook page for updated information on human trafficking activities: www.facebook.com/LenaweeantiHTCoalition. You can call 517-264-6821 for more information or to request a speaker as well.

I have been a part of both the Monroe and Lenawee County Anti Human Trafficking Coalitions, collectively, for over 10 years. In Lenawee County, there has been an Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force or Coalition for over 11 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 works closely with many community partners to address human trafficking and related domestic violence and sexual assault issues. They understand the nuances of this issue.

There are other sources of information about human trafficking. ). The United Nations has the Blue Heart Campaign (www.unodc.org). 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 the United Way and its mission regarding human trafficking, please contact us. Call us at 517-264-6821, email [email protected], visit us at 136 E. Maumee St., Suite 15, Adrian, MI 49221, or visit our website at www.unitedwaymlc.org. Visit our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok social media platforms, too.

Laura Schultz Pipis is the executive director of the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: United Way: World Day Against Trafficking highlights societal scourge