January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, created to raise awareness of sex slavery and human trafficking worldwide. This is a critical problem that all of us at Native Hope are passionate about addressing. We are devoted to confronting this issue head-on and supporting various programs all year long that provide specific services for victims of this horrific crime.
The sobering facts
Today, there are between 21-30 million people enslaved in the world, more than any other time in history. The official month of recognition began as a U.S. initiative seeking to end this form of modern day slavery and return rights to individuals, with the United Nations following suit and highlighting the work that needs to be done to raise global awareness of this epidemic.
Although this is a global issue, it is also prevalent very close to home. Native American women and children make up 40% of sex trafficking victims in the state of South Dakota alone. According to federal data, Native women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other races. They are also subject to high rates of intimate-partner violence and other forms of assault. These factors, along with poverty, substance abuse, and foster care, can make them vulnerable to exploitation. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, reiterates the “threat of human trafficking to Native communities and sex trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives,” describing the "first citizens of the United States as some of the most vulnerable.”
Lisa Brunner, from the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, states:
"Human trafficking of Native Women in the United States is not a new era of violence against Native women but rather the continuation of a lengthy historical one...Native women experience violent victimization at a higher rate than any other US population. Congressional findings are that more than 1 in 3 Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime...more than 6 in 10 will be physically assaulted. Native women are stalked more than twice the rate of other women. Native women are murdered more than ten times the national average. Non-Indians commit 88% of violent crimes against Native women. Given the above statistical data and the historical roots of violence against Native women, the level of human trafficking given the sparse data collected can only equate to the current epidemic levels we face within our tribal communities and Nations."
Change begins with one
So the question arises: what can we do about it? When such a profound issue exists, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, asking, “How can I help? What can I do that could possibly make a difference in such an immense problem?” The answer is simple. It starts with one. One person taking a stand, inviting others to join them in the fight. We can no longer sit back and say, "It’s not our problem; there’s nothing we can do about it." It is our problem.
Help, hope, and healing
At Native Hope we are determined to raise awareness of this horrific crime. From hitting the streets of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to hand out flyers and distribute posters with specific signs to look for of suspicious activity, to our Never In Season campaign during hunting season in South Dakota, along with our joint efforts with the Red Sand Project, we are committed to fighting against this injustice and being a voice for the victims who need our help.
If you believe someone you know may be a victim or is in a vulnerable position, read our article on signs to watch for. If you are a victim and need help, please call the hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
It is time to end the unacceptable cycle of turning a blind eye. It is time for us to stand up and take bold action. We need to join together to expose this dark crime against humanity and to offer the hope, help, and healing these victims so desperately need.