“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.
The answer is yes.
Human trafficking happens in the United States.
It may seem like an obvious statement but it’s one we often say when explaining the work of Freedom 4/24. And yes, we exist to fight human trafficking here in the States too. In light of the upcoming 4th of July celebration of our country's independence, we asked blogger and Freedom 4/24 supporter Holly Hrywnak of thecommonqueen.com to give a snapshot of trafficking in the U.S.
So, who is Holly? Here’s a quick For 24 intro.
#4: Meet Holly Hrywnak
Hometown: Corning, NY
Family snap shot: I've have three siblings and have the honor of being an aunt to seven of the cutest (and craziest) kiddos. My parents have been in pastoral ministry for about 35 years now. They have a deep love for God and a heart for people. I've seen the way they've extended kindness, grace and love to the hurting, broken and afflicted and it is their example of godliness that I aspire to.
How did you become aware of human trafficking for the first time?
I first learned of human trafficking when I was in Bible school about 10 years ago. I was involved in a prayer group that focused on the needs of people in North America and one of the topics that came up was human trafficking. It struck my heart deeply to learn of the atrocities being committed ... especially to children.
How did you get connected to the work of Freedom 4/24?
I got connected to Freedom 4/24 through a friend of mine, Tim Spaulding. I started reading different articles he would post on social media and a passion started to rekindle in my heart. I wasn't sure what I could do to help, but I knew I could speak and that was better than remaining silent.
Now that you have a glimpse of Holly and her heart, read her eye-opening piece on the issue of human trafficking in the United States.
Land of the Not-So-Free: 1.5 Million Human Trafficking Victims Currently in U.S.
“It could never happen here,” we try and convince ourselves.
The issue of human trafficking isn’t just another episode on Law and Order: SVU or a sad news story out of Nigeria sandwiched between tonight’s lottery numbers and the announcement of the name of a celebrity’s newborn. It’s happening now and it’s happening here, in my state and yours.
Let me assure you, there is human trafficking taking place in all—yes all—50 states, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). The top three states that are recorded for potential human trafficking instances are California, Texas and Florida. This isn’t exactly the kind of Top 3 group that people are proud to be a part of, but it’s something we all need to understand.
Before I get ahead of myself, I think it’s important to define human trafficking. Human trafficking is any instance in which a victim is held against his or her will to perform sex acts or labor services either through force, fraud or coercion. Simply put, it is modern day slavery and it affects men, women and children alike. In 2014, the NHTRC received reports of 5,042 unique cases of human trafficking in the United States. Each instance could involve multiple victims.
That’s a lot of cases, if you ask me. More importantly it is a lot of people.
It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, there are 1.5 million victims currently in the human trafficking trade.
It’s easy to get lost in the statistics and the numbers, but each of those numbers represents a victim. Each number has a name, a story and a life before being trafficked.
What do human trafficking victims look like? They look a lot like you and me. They are young, old, male, female, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals and they come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. It can happen to anyone at any time.
It’s hard for me to describe to you what a day in the life of a victim may look like because it is devastating, to say the least. Oftentimes, human trafficking victims are visibly malnourished. They have been denied the most basic of rights and their bodies bear the scars—both physically and mentally. Sex trafficking victims are forced to participate in sex acts with numerous partners a day, one after the other. Labor trafficking victims work under poor conditions for long hours. There are no breaks, no days off and certainly no vacations.
Now that we know that human trafficking is a huge problem in the United States and that there are cases of it happening in every state, you may be wondering where, specifically, it takes places. Is it based solely in underground markets? No, in fact many times it occurs in businesses, including restaurants, farms, factories and strip clubs. Personally, I find that difficult to wrap my head around because in the case of farming and manufacturing, I could be purchasing items that were harvested or made through labor trafficking and not even know it.
How could this happen in the U.S.? Why does it happen? It’s a pretty simple answer: money.
It’s all about the money. Human trafficking is making traffickers billions of dollars each year. That’s a lot of Benjamins. With the benefit of high profits and such a low risk of getting caught, the reality of trafficking is a growing industry that only looks to consume and shatter more lives for the sake of profit.
If we ever hope to see human trafficking end in the United States, we must all take part in the fight, at every level of government and citizenship. According to the NHTRC, there needs to be an increase of training for federal and local law enforcement agencies. There will need to be more services offered for victims who have been recovered. Awareness must also gain greater ground in our communities. While there seems to be no excuse for someone to claim ignorance with the amount of connectivity the internet and social media lends us, it is still my job and yours to open the eyes of those around us.
After 9/11, New York City started circulating the slogan, “If you see something, say something.” The slogan was meant to draw people’s attention to suspicious activity that could be happening around them and this same slogan can be applied human trafficking. When we are made aware of an injustice, even if it doesn’t directly relate to us, it is important to share that information with others. People need to know what is happening around us, in our own country. They need to be informed and we can’t expect someone else to do the talking for us. We’ve got to be willing to speak up when we learn of injustices. You may never know the impact it makes for someone.
We’ve also got to be willing to put our money where our mouth is by supporting organizations like Freedom 4/24 that are leading the way in this fight. Did you know that Freedom 4/24 financially supports and promotes the work of not just their international partners that are fighting the fight, but also 11 domestic organizations that all tackle human trafficking in America? Your financial support makes this directly possible.
By giving just $24/month (that’s $0.80 a day) to Freedom 4/24, you make a tremendous impact in feeding, sheltering, clothing, rehabilitating and restoring hope to hundreds of REAL girls and women each year. Not just abroad, but right here in the United States.
You too can make an impact. It needn’t be overwhelming or complicated. Give $24 a month. Get involved in a Run 4 Their Lives race. Share this story on Facebook. Donate your birthday to Freedom. If we all do what we can, we will chip away at the fabric of human trafficking in the United States, and across the world. Together, we can end it, one voice raised and one life saved at a time.
To become a recurring giver, click here. To learn more about the American partners Freedom 4/24 supports, visit www.freedom424.org/about/our-partners/domestic-partners/. For more insight into human trafficking in the United States, including myths and misconceptions, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at www.traffickingresourcecenter.org.