These are from just the past three months. What and Where is Human Trafficking? Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced. And slavery does not happen only overseas, in developing countries. As the headlines above indicate, it hits much closer to home.
Victims of human trafficking can be any age, gender, race, or immigration status; they live in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. They live right here, in Western Pennsylvania. While human trafficking was virtually nonexistent in our region just six years ago, since then, 36 known brothels, or places of human trafficking, have sprung up in the greater Pittsburgh area.
Six of these trafficking dens are in the suburbs and surrounding neighborhoods. Not Good Enough Now that we know human trafficking is happening here, naturally we want to know what is being done to address it. Thankfully, Pennsylvania has made great strides in just the past three years. The Commonwealth enacted Act in to define human trafficking and give law enforcement tools needed to go after traffickers. Unfortunately, there is still much progress to be made in this fight. Prostitution laws apply to minors under This means kids who in many cases have already been abused by family members as well as pimps are victims a second time when they are treated like the criminals and arrested on such charges as prostitution, drug possession, loitering, and other prostitution-related offenses.
Meanwhile their traffickers are rarely caught, let alone prosecuted and convicted. A House bill to regulate the latter was pulled in To put it plainly: Our state government is not doing enough to equip law enforcement to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.
But you can do something. Want to get involved? Start from Where You Are Knowledge is power, and in the case of human trafficking, it is light. Traffickers work in the shadows—their success depends on your not knowing about or noticing them, not seeing their victims. By far, your knowledge about this subject and the fact that it is happening all around us is the most important weapon you have, as it will shine light on this dark injustice by exposing it for the evil it is.
Learn Educate yourself and learn about indicators of trafficking as well as what to do if you suspect it is happening by exploring the links above, as well as national organizations like Polaris Project and Shared Hope. Local resources for education, prevention, and response include Living in Liberty an organization that operates safe houses for survivors of trafficking and Project to End Human Trafficking.
Want to better understand this issue from the perspective of a local survivor? This is a great article. If you suspect human trafficking, never engage directly in the situation. For more information about services provided by Living in Liberty, call Give As you might imagine, there are many incredible organizations out there that are doing lifesaving work in the fight against human trafficking.