National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month – an important time to reflect on the resilience of trafficking survivors and recognize the efforts of those who work tirelessly to prevent and eliminate this inhumane and devastating form of abuse and exploitation.

This month, the Department of the Interior joins with other federal agencies, community partners, advocates, and individuals to raise awareness of this crime, recognizing that everyone of us can play an important role in the fight against human trafficking.

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Human trafficking involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. In a 2017 report, the International Labour Organization found that on any given day in 2016, an estimated 25 million people are subjected to human trafficking and forced labor. Considered one of the fastest growing illegal industries in the world, human trafficking generates an estimated $150 billion annually in illicit profits.

This year during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Department’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security’s Victim Assistance Program is bringing attention to the heightened vulnerability of persons with disabilities to trafficking victimization. These individuals are often overlooked as potential victims and may not know how to seek help.

Although statistics about human trafficking crimes against individuals with disabilities are limited, from January 2015 to December 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline documented 2,116 potential victims who had a pre-existing health concern or disability immediately prior to their trafficking situation (including a possible physical disability, mental health diagnosis, substance use concern, or intellectual/developmental disability). Also, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics emphasized the vulnerability of persons with disabilities in a report examining victimization in non-fatal crimes (including rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault). Specifically, the report found that from 2017 to 2019, the rate of violent victimization in these crimes against persons with disabilities was more than 4 times the rate for persons without disabilities.

According to DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center, several factors may contribute to an increased risk of being trafficked for persons with disabilities, including:

  • Caregivers who take care of the basic needs of individuals with disabilities can take advantage of this dependency and force them into trafficking.
  • Some individuals with disabilities may have difficulties with communication and/or speech, making it difficult for them to seek help.
  • People with disabilities may be sheltered and isolated and therefore crave connections and relationships, resulting in their being persuaded to engage in commercial sex or forced labor in exchange for money or friendship.
  • People with disabilities may be desensitized to physical touch due to isolation or an abundance of medical procedures related to their disability. They may be unaware of their right to object to unwanted touching and unaware of their rights as crime victims.

To learn more about why persons with disabilities may be vulnerable to trafficking, watch this informational interview with Sarah Bessell, the Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Legal Center. Additional information and resources about the intersection between persons with disabilities and human trafficking victimization may be found on this blog post created by Polaris, an anti-trafficking organization that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

To Get Help for Victims

To report your concerns about a potential trafficking situation or get help for a person who may be a victim, contact the following helplines:

  • National Human Trafficking Hotline - this confidential hotline connects victims with support and services, provides information, and receives tips about potential trafficking situations.
    • 1-888-373-7888
    • If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.
    • Text: 233733

  • StrongHearts Native Helpline – an anonymous and confidential domestic violence, dating violence and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is available 24/7, 365 days a year, offering culturally appropriate support and advocacy.