Whose Boundaries Are These, Anyway?

All too often, it is easy for people to cross boundaries they do not have the right to cross. In every culture across the globe, the same horrors happen, usually in the shadows. Heroes arise. Changes are made. Yet, problems like stalking, human trafficking, and modern slavery continue. Social consciousness spurs governmental agencies to organize in fighting this never-ending battle, and some of these efforts are making a real difference, from local police departments to national and international cooperation. January is the month of focus each year, but active help is available every day, 24 hours a day. 

In many cases, this is psychological warfare used by enemies constantly on the move. The power people can exert over those who are weaker than they are might be physical as well, but threats and lies are weapons that are perhaps even more powerful. In the United States, the National Human Trafficking Hotline connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and support “to get help and stay safe.” The hotline (1-888-373-7888) offers toll-free phone and SMS text lines (text 233733), live online chat, and Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) for speech and hearing-impaired individuals (711). Correspondence is confidential (in certain cases, information is reported to the appropriate authorities) for requesting assistance or reporting a tip anonymously, and over 200 languages are supported through on-call interpreters. Email and online forms also are used through the hotline’s website.

Calling 911 is always an option to begin this connection, too. Reaching out in person to officers or emergency personnel takes a lot of courage, but it can be a quick route to help. If you suspect something is not right, here are a few of the red flags the Hotline website lists though this is not “proof” that human trafficking is occurring. 

  • A person is not free to come and go at will.
  • A minor under age 18 is providing commercial sex acts. 
  • Breaks are not allowed.
  • Work hours are long and excessive.
  • Signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment, and/or fatigue are present.
  • A person exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after law enforcement or immigration officials are mentioned.
  • Someone may have few or no personal possessions and no control of identification documents.
  • He or she may have a lost sense of time or share inconsistent stories.
  • Victims may protect the person who is hurting them or may minimize the abuse. 

Maintaining personal boundaries is often not possible for individuals in such situations. Their power has been taken from them. That’s where each of us can help. Community members, lawmakers, law enforcement and others can receive training and participate in events nationwide that are designed to bring awareness and support to victims in their communities. Examples are as follows.

  • “Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking Victimization and Response,” a conference scheduled for January 8, 2020, at York College of Pennsylvania, co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Psychological Association
  • “Art for Awareness Preventing Human Trafficking,” January 11, 2020, at Adelante Healthcare, Goodyear, Goodyear, Arizona, sponsored by DeeCilla Comfort Center
  • Call to Freedom Luncheon “A Healthy Path for Victims of Human Trafficking,” January 16, 2020, The Ministry Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 
  • “Battle for Freedom,” a fundraiser hosted by Soroptimist of Trenton Area and Hope Against Trafficking of Southeast Michigan, January 26, 2020, The Prestige Hall, Allen Park, Michigan 
  • 2020 Medical Symposium on Human Trafficking, January 28 – February 8, 2020, VCU School of Medicine, Richmond, Virginia, hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and Medical Students Fighting Human Trafficking, along with partner ImPACT Virginia

The United States Department of Homeland Security recognizes National Human Trafficking Awareness Day every year on January 11th. Their Blue Campaign hosts special events and educational activities and encourages people and groups to wear blue, send in photos of themselves wearing blue, and share on social media not only the photos but also why they are participating. Other ways to contribute include lighting up a landmark, organizing a challenge, sharing a video, hosting an event, and encouraging friends and colleagues to do the same. Similar events are taking place all over the country and throughout the world. 

Founded in 1839, Anti-Slavery International is “the world’s oldest international human rights organization.” Their dream is an end to slavery in all its forms: forced and bonded labor; child slavery and child or forced marriage; descent based slavery (those born into slavery); domestic slavery, debt bondage, and human trafficking.  

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in Lame Deer, Montana, works in support of Native American women and their children, who are entitled to safety from violence within their homes and in their community, justice both on and off tribal lands, and access to culturally grounded services designed by and for Native women. They provide national leadership, develop educational and programmatic materials, provide direct technical assistance, build the capacity of Indigenous communities, and support tribal sovereignty..

No matter where you live, you can get involved. These are your boundaries, too. And you can fight for your family, friends, communities and schools. You can lend your strength to millions of people who do not have strength themselves … yet … or to one person.

That is what boundaries are about, one person having the freedom to say “Enough!” One person having a chance to receive help that is desperately needed, to choose where to go, what to do. 

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