One of the strongest voices in the fight against human trafficking belongs to a survivor. Rani Hong, founder of The Tronie Foundation, has a bright smile and warm eyes. Her placid face does not tell the story of her life, but her words do. She wants her voice to be heard so that others do not have to experience what she did as a child. (Her Twitter handle is @RanisVoice.) In preparation for a campaign called, “Everyone’s Kids, Everyone Gives,” Hong has four things she’d like everyone to know about child trafficking today.
First, anyone can be a victim. It does not just happen “over there,” in certain neighborhoods, or in large citites. The internet lures vulnerable young people every day; a trafficker develops a relationship with a young person, playing on their dreams and their vulnerabilities. If the young person has a troubled home life, the risk increases, but it’s not just young people living in high-risk situations who fall prey.
Second, the business of human trafficking is doing great. It’s one of the strongest parts of the nation’s and the global economy.
Every year in the U.S., approximately 100,000 children become new victims of trafficking, said Hong. “It’s hard for us to believe that slavery still exists,” she said. “We think of it as back in the 1800s.” But modern slavery is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world and generates more than $150 billion in profits each year, according to the United Nations.
Unlike other businesses, traffickers can sell their “products” over and over again, making it very lucrative.
Third, there is no “typical” trafficker. Male, female, white, black, Hispanic, American, foreigner, young, old: there is no one portrait of a human trafficker. If you’re thinking “creepy old guy,” think again. Traffickers have learned to use women (often women close to the victim’s age) because women are more easily trusted than men, and will build a relationship with a young person more quickly.
Finally, Hong says that the best way to combat trafficking is to be educated and aware. Parents need to talk to their children about it, especially about internet safety. Learn to recognize the signs of trafficking. Often, children who are being trafficked attend school, participate in activities…and are living a nightmare. If parents, educators, health care professionals and first responders are educated about trafficking, we can turn the tide and save children.