Earlier this year I went to see the movie Taken with Liam Neeson, in which his daughter in the movie is kidnapped while on a trip to Europe and sold into slavery. Honestly, I was shocked that Hollywood would elect to take on as serious a topic as human trafficking in an action-thriller movie, and I was slightly offended by the nonchalant manner in which they approached the topic. Furthermore, I never realized how prevalent human trafficking is until I was researching the 2005 Natalee Holloway cold case file that we will be unveiling in May at the museum, in which there are theories that Holloway was kidnapped while on a school trip to Aruba to be sold into slavery as well.
From my research, I found that the U.S. State Department estimates that, “approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders into slavery; this number does not include millions trafficked within their own countries. Some estimate the global number of trafficking victims to be in the millions–in domestic servitude, sex slavery, forced labor, child soldiers, child camel jockeys, and other brutal schemes.”
In the United States, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is the government body responsible for eradicating human trafficking, victim protection, prosecution of traffickers and prevention of trafficking. But they are not alone in their efforts. Since 2002, what began as a simple idea between 2 undergraduate students at Brown University, the Polaris Project grew into a successful international non-profit organization devoted to eliminating human trafficking and modern-day slavery. They claim that human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. And if you think that the U.S. is immune to human trafficking, think again! According to humantrafficking.org, “The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.”
Fortunately, there are organizations who try to locate the victims of slavery, eliminate human trafficking, and return peace to the lives of those affected; however, this is a much larger problem than most people can appreciate.