(COLORADO) — January is the month dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking throughout the U.S. and the world.

On Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, the White House released a Presidential Proclamation recognizing the scourge of human trafficking and how it affects people. Highlighting the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking that was released in December 2021, the president spoke on prevention, prosecution, and protecting survivors.

The history of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month begins with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. TVPA “enshrined the United States’ commitment to combating human trafficking domestically and internationally,” according to the U.S. State Department.

In 2010, President Barrack Obama called the month National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Every year since then, every president has carried on the tradition.

Human trafficking is both labor and sex trafficking. The State Department’s website said, “It not only represents a threat to international peace and security but also undermines the rule of law, robs millions of their dignity and freedom, enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and threatens public safety and national security everywhere.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects data pertaining to trafficking. In the most recent report, Human Trafficking Data Collection Activities, 2022, the most recent data from 2020 was highlighted including:

  • A total of 2,198 persons were referred to U.S. Attorneys for human trafficking offenses in fiscal year 2020, a 62% increase from the 1,360 persons referred in 2011.
  • The number of persons prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 in 2011 to 1,343 in 2020, an 84% increase.
  • The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons), before falling in 2020 (658 persons).
  • At yearend 2020, for the 47 states that reported data, 1,564 persons were in the custody of a state prison serving a sentence for a human trafficking offense.
  • Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in fiscal year 2020 —
    • 92% were male
    • 63% were white
    • 18% were black
    • 17% were Hispanic
    • 95% were U.S. citizens
    • 66% had no prior convictions.

According to the State Department, “There are estimated to be more than 24.9 million people — adults and children — subjected to human trafficking around the world, including in the United States. Traffickers often take advantage of instability caused by natural disasters, conflict, or a pandemic to exploit others.”

The State Department has a list of 20 ways a person can help fight human trafficking, but here are a few:

  • If you are in the United States and believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or report an emergency to law enforcement by calling 911. Trafficking victims, whether or not U.S. citizens, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
  • Encourage your local schools or school district to include human trafficking in their curricula and to develop protocols for identifying and reporting a suspected case of human trafficking or responding to a potential victim.
  • Become a mentor to a young person or someone in need. Traffickers often target people who are going through a difficult time or who lack strong support systems. As a mentor, you can be involved in new and positive experiences in that person’s life during a formative time.

Near the end of President Biden’s proclamation, he said, “Together, we can combat human trafficking and its cruel consequences — creating a safer, freer, and more just world for everyone.”