See No Slavery, Hear No Slavery, Speak No Slavery

Next to my fabulous co-bloggers, I’m a relative newcomer to the anti-slavery movement. No less passionate — but still in that stage of the game where lack of interest toward this cause surprises me. I guess I’m not jaded enough, yet, to shrug my shoulders and go on my merry, abolitionist way. Learning and writing about this issue has given me the opportunity to share the topic with others who aren’t aware of what of “human trafficking” means, and that it occurs both all over the world and in the U.S. But, beyond that initial conversation of, “So, what’s your job at all about?” I generally find that people aren’t so keen on hearing, much less doing, more about modern-day slavery.

I can think of lots of reasons why not. First of all, not everyone is an activist — and that’s okay. I wasn’t born an activist, and I think it’s important to recognize that, like many other roles, it’s one you adopt if and when you are ready for it. In addition, already-existing activists might be interested in human trafficking, but already have their plates full with their own cause, or causes. I get that, too.

Exposure is an issue. If it’s not on the nightly news, will mainstream America know about it? Will they consider it important when they do? Stories and stats make a subject meaningful, but human trafficking is shadowy crime, tricky to pin down for the sake of victim testimonies and hard data. Without those, it’s sort of difficult to broadcast a report.

And then there’s framing: Does the average American hear about an underage prostitute and correctly think “human trafficking victim?” Do they even think “victim?” Or, do they automatically jump to “criminal?”

Mainly, though, I think it’s the topic itself. Slavery is not only depressing, it is practically taboo. Your basic unspeakable subjects — physical torture, emotional abuse, sex with children, rape, pornography, drugs, debt bondage, murder, need I go on? — are all balled into one lump horror that is hard for many of us to imagine, much less talk about. Instead of reading the stories, stomaching the dark truth and even admitting one’s own complicity in the crime, it is much easier to close your eyes, ears, and mouth.

To some extent, I understand that, as well. Once you know about human trafficking, see that slavery never did go away, and realize that we support it with our own dollars daily? It weighs on you. And on top of an already heavy stack of problems in the world and in one’s own life, who wants to add more weight?

But as activists trying to further this cause, we absolutely need people to care. So, how do you or your group convince a person of human trafficking’s importance? What approaches toward raising awareness do you find most meaningful and effective?

No, really, I want to know! I welcome your constructive thoughts in comments.

Photo credit: allyaubry



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