HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A growing concern across the nation and here in Pennsylvania is human trafficking. January is national human trafficking awareness month.
State officials held a news conference to raise awareness, outline combative efforts, and offer resources for survivors.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to get some type of labor or commercial sex act.
Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide.
“Human trafficking happens everywhere, and can happen to anyone, and yes, it’s happening in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian.
The state capitol was the location of Thursday’s press conference.
Officials discussed how more than one thousand human trafficking offenses were filed in the state over the last five years.
“We are here to raise awareness about this horrible practice and highlight how we are working to end modern-day slavery in Pennsylvania,” said Gramian.
Human trafficking is often referred to as a hidden crime because language barriers and fear of traffickers or law enforcement frequently keep victims from getting help.
Traffickers often target people who are facing economic hardship, emotional distress or difficult situations.
“Victims of human trafficking, especially sexual trafficking, can face some of the same consequences of sexual violence. They can be short-term and long-term consequences, they can have difficulty with relationships, with emotional and mental health issues,” said Doctor Denise Johnson, Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General.
According to the U.S. Department of State, forced labor is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world.
“Some of the common industries that we know that are ripe for labor trafficking include domestic service, the service industry, agriculture, landscaping, construction, and manufacturing. But unfortunately due to the nature of labor trafficking, happening deliberately out of our sight, workers who are trafficked lack all of the protections and safety nets that we strive to provide to all Pennsylvanians,” said Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier.
Officials say recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save lives.
“Someone who is being trafficked may be in an abusive relationship, they may be absent from their school or from work, or they may become isolated from friends and family,” said Pennsylvania Commission for Women Executive Director, Moriah Hathaway.
If you need immediate help, or want to report a human trafficking tip, you can call the national human trafficking hotline number at 1-888-373-7888.