Modern-day slavery and human trafficking is an issue in every pocket of the world—including Madison County. Locally, organizations like Stripped Love and the AU interest club Bound are working to combat slavery.
“Human trafficking is not only an international problem—it’s present here in the Midwest as well,” said Tressia Phipps, a junior biology pre-med major and the current president of Bound.
On Dec. 28, President Barack Obama issued a formal proclamation declaring the month of January in 2017 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The month of heightened awareness regarding human trafficking will end with National Freedom Day on Feb. 1.
“We must address the consequences of human trafficking and work to tackle its root causes,” Obama said in the proclamation.
Bound is working to do just that. Through campus events, club meetings and fundraisers, Bound members are continually working to increase awareness.
Last semester, the interest club raised over $1,000 for International Justice Mission and A21, both of which are international organizations committed to ending slavery of all kinds and supporting victims as they re-enter society as free persons.
In the coming weeks of the spring semester, Bound members will be participating in off-campus service projects through local organizations such as Dove Harbor.
Obama’s proclamation also touched on the increased funds and political action that have been devoted to ending modern-day slavery and trafficking.
“This past fiscal year, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice provided more than $60 million to community-based organizations and task forces to assist human trafficking victims,” Obama said. “Since the beginning of my Administration, we have nearly tripled the number of victims connected to services.”
Stripped Love, a local organization founded by Rev. Dr. Kimberly Majeski, a professor in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, aims to address the consequences of human trafficking that Obama wrote about.
“From its founding, the singular purpose of Stripped Love has been to love,” reads the Stripped Love website. “We believe that as Christ loves us, we are compelled to love women in the sex industry who otherwise might not know of God’s unconditional love.”
For Stripped Love, loving women in the sex industry includes biweekly outreach visits to local strip clubs. During these visits, Stripped Love volunteers build community and friendships with club workers.
“Simply put, we believe love heals,” the website says. “Each woman on our team is surrendered to the power of God in her own life, and we cannot help but share God’s love with our friends. We are convinced that God is calling us to bring God’s daughters home.”
Statistics on human trafficking are, at best, educated estimations, as the majority of human trafficking is done in secret. However, according to the International Labor Organization, there are at least 21 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labor. Approximately 1.5 million of those victims are located in North America, while nearly 12 million are in the Asia-Pacific region.
As of Sept. 30, The National Human Trafficking Hotline took reports on 5,748 cases of human trafficking within the US in 2016 alone. The highest majority of those reports came from California, where 1,012 signals, or reports, were made. Indiana was the 23rd highest reporting state, with 66 signals as of September.
Most cases reported by the National Human Trafficking Hotline involved sex trafficking. The trafficking occurred most frequently in hotels and motels.
According to the US National Trafficking Resource Center, the average age that a woman enters the sex industry is 13.
Sex trafficking is not the only kind of forced labor that takes place throughout the world. Forced labor occurs in other industries, such as on cocoa plantations and textile factories.
“Every action we take at home, from the clothing we wear to the food we eat, is connected to what happens around the world,” said Obama. “As a Nation, we have worked to address the problem of forced labor in our supply chains, and as individuals, we must strive to be conscientious consumers.”
“This month, let us find inspiration in America’s progress toward justice, opportunity, and prosperity for all and reaffirm our pledge to continue fighting for human rights around the world,” Obama concluded.
Anyone interested in attending Bound’s first meeting of the semester can do so. The meeting will take place on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. in Hartung 116.