January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. istock.Elana-Merkulova

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. Sadly, a crime against humanity is why this day exists. But as sadly, most people are unaware there is even such a thing as human trafficking, to say nothing about a month to acknowledge human trafficking happens all over the world, likely in your neighborhood, or shows up at your dinner table in the form of food.

A quote on the social media page of a survivor of human trafficking got my attention as I pondered what I could say that was different about human trafficking. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve said everything.

“There are times when you must speak, not because you are going to change the other person, but because if you don’t speak, they have changed you.” (Mary Quinn, 2010) Mary was a writer known to those who knew her or of her as Maud. She has died of uterine cancer, but her words remain to change the world.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as human trafficking. Then one day, I was sitting on the steps of a farmhouse with an activist leader from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, based in Florida, but is active all over the country. Somehow, he began telling me about human trafficking in the food system, as building local food systems was my focus then. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that any human being would be so cruel and heartless that they would buy, sell, and brutalize another human being to make money. But he spoke and changed me., as well as the course of my life.

Human trafficking is not a complex idea but ending it has become complicated because of the silence of too many, the corruption of those we should be able to trust, and the lack of coordination of efforts by those who have the power to help. And finally, there is obstinate disbelief on the part of many who should care – everyone – and yet, the rest of us refuse to give up.

This month I serendipitously began beta reading a book on human trafficking on which I am consulting. It’s been a labor of love. I sometimes wondered if it would be published. There’s still a long way to go. Book publishing doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s good to be at the next step.

There are many avenues of trafficking. Women and children are the primary victims, no matter how they are trafficked. They are raped, photographed, and sold to the highest bidder over and over until they are considered useless and are then killed or left to die on their own. Sometimes poverty and other economic factors make them vulnerable. Sometimes low self-esteem. Whatever the impetus, they are not at fault and did nothing wrong. They became victims of those who, in their anger, ignorance, and heartlessness, used their power to take control of another person’s life.

There are times when you must speak. So please join me in speaking against human trafficking.

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