The One Question Nobody Asks About Human Trafficking


Jul 28, 2017

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Did you know the United States is one of the biggest destinations for trafficking around the globe?  In honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Emily Pasnak-Lapchick from UNICEF USA shares her insights into the root causes of the problem, and her thoughts about how we can stop human trafficking.


Emily Pasnak-Lapchick

Manager of the End Trafficking Project
at UNICEF USA

Who She Is:

As the Manager of the End Trafficking Project at UNICEF USA, Emily leads a national awareness and advocacy campaign about child trafficking, reaching over 50,000 constituents each year. She leads the creation of resources, in-person and online training, development of partnerships, and fundraising initiatives. Emily is a member of the Steering Committee for the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons, serves on the board of More Too Life and is on the National Steering Committee for Fair Trade Campaigns. She was honored as a New Abolitionist in 2016.

Q: Tell us about the reason you choose to work on the issue of human trafficking.

A: I always knew that I wanted to work in nonprofits in a changemaker space. However, I always had a hard time focusing on one specific issue. Once I learned about human trafficking, all the pieces finally connected for me. This is an issue that exists because of poverty, because of racism and sexism, because our environment is being destroyed and because war is displacing people. For me, preventing and ending human trafficking is the nexus of everything that I care about. I can address all of the issues I want to work on by engaging in the anti-trafficking space.

Q: What’s the most important thing we should know about how to stop human trafficking?

A: The most important thing for everyone to know about trafficking is that it happens everywhere. This issue pervades all communities, all countries, all classes and races and genders. Everyone is connected to this issue whether we like it or not. Simply by existing in this world—buying coffee, tea, chocolate, clothing, technology—we are connected to the lives of exploited people. However, this also means that we all have a role to play in ending human trafficking by making conscious choices every day.

Q: What are some ways that we can all help stop human trafficking?

A: Find out how the products you buy are connected to human trafficking. Visit slaveryfootprint.org to take an online survey that helps you determine how many exploited people are involved in making the products you buy. Then, educate yourself on Fair Trade and ethically sourced products and begin making conscious choices when you shop. Learn the signs of trafficking, and if you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. Visit unicefusa.org/endtrafficking to learn more and download resources which include dozens of ways to take action, or give to our project on GlobalGiving.

Q: What are some common myths about human trafficking?

A: Here are a few I see a lot:

Myth:

    • Most victims are women and girls.

Truth:

    The ILO estimates that 45 percent of victims globally are men and boys.

Myth:

    • Human trafficking is sex trafficking.

Truth:

    The ILO estimates that 68 percent of trafficking globally is in the labor sector – in agriculture, domestic servitude, or manufacturing.

Myth:

    • Human trafficking only happens abroad.

Truth:

    It has been reported in every US state. The US is considered one of the biggest destinations for trafficking in the world.

Myth:

    • Victims in the US are mostly foreign nationals.

Truth:

    In the US, most victims of sex trafficking are US citizens and most victims of labor trafficking are foreign nationals.

Q: What is the one question nobody asks about your work, and that you would like them to ask?

A: No one asks what they can do to address the root causes of human trafficking—poverty, racism, sexism, discrimination, homophobia. When people first learn about this issue, understandably, our instinct is to want to help “rescue” people from trafficking—to volunteer at a shelter or go on a raid. One of the best metaphors I’ve heard about how to stop human trafficking is that we can’t just stand at the end of the river pulling people out and saving them from drowning. We must go upstream and determine why they are falling into the river in the first place. That’s what is so fantastic about UNICEF’s work on access to healthcare, education, nutrition, poverty, and more.

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