January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. Human trafficking is modern day slavery.

Yes slavery. “Slavery is the social and/or legal designation of specific persons as property, without the right to refuse work or receive payment.”
As a grandparent, this story made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Recently, I was made aware of a very frightening event that took place in a McDonalds. While dad ordered their food, mom took their baby and 2 year old into the play area. A young girl, about 6 years old, asked to help out the mom by taking the 2 year old into the play area. Mom said “yes, thank you!”  Mom turned around to get the younger child situated in the high chair, but when she turned around to watch her child playing- both children were nowhere to be seen! Mom was frantic. A few minutes later, her husband came into the playground holding their daughter’s hand, obviously very angry and asking “Why was our daughter with those people?”  
It seems the young girl was herself part of a group of adults (waiting outside in a van), but this child was seen trying to entice other younger kids to come with her to the van. Sound impossible?  Sadly, it’s not. Although we don’t know the exact intentions of this child and the adults in the van waiting for her, it’s clear their motives were suspicious at best, and at worst, criminal.
Human trafficking is the practice of using force, fraud, or even coercion to exploit people through labor and commercial sex. Human trafficking is not only sex trafficking. Under Federal law, any minor under the age of 18 (regardless of the state’s age of consent) who is forced to perform a commercial sex act is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.  Forced labor involves exploitation of people and victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and domestic service.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:
•Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
•Has a child stopped attending school?
•Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
•Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
•Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
•Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
•Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
•Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
•Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
•Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
•Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
•Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
•Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?.
Many people think, “How could a child possibly be trafficked in America?”  Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States- in cities, suburbs and rural towns. Human trafficking is a hidden crime. Victims are often very frightened to come forward to get help because they are threatened personally or their families are threatened.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked- Do not attempt to confront a suspect trafficker or alert a victim to your suspicions. Contact 1-866-347-2423 (ICE) 24/7 to report suspicious activity or for more detail information go to:https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.


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