January is Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month, also referred to as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This is a crucial time to not only educate yourself about this heinous industry— but to take the message your offices, houses of worship, schools and elected officials.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It involves the illegal trade of human beings, many of whom are among society’s most vulnerable. Victims are often children who run away; people who have been sexually abused or raped; young adults with alcohol or drug abuse problems; or LGBTQ youth who have been kicked out of their homes.

Human traffickers buy and sell people against their will by force, but can also be stealth in their tactics, especially online. During the pandemic, an increased demand for commercial sex has driven traffickers to lean on the internet and social media even more than ever. Predators establish relationships with children and teens looking to escape the tension, stress and abuse of households that are short on money, food and emotional support. These victims are “groomed” through promises of adventure, fun and even love, only to end up trafficked into prostitution or other forms of commercial sex work.

Human trafficking is so prevalent, it’s considered the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year.1 The Global Slavery Index estimated that 40.3 million people are in modern-day slavery as of 2016.2 Now, imagine how high that number is today because of COVID-19’s impact and because human trafficking is such a vastly under-reported crime.

Here in Orange County, the market thrives because of demand and sheer wealth. In fact, sting operations by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force in 2018 showed that 80 percent of human trafficking victims from around the country end up in Orange County3. The 2019 Human Trafficking Victim Report4 produced by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force reported that of the 415 Orange County human trafficking victims assisted in 2017 and 2018, 87 percent were victims of sex trafficking.

Of the 359 OC sex trafficking victims:

  • 99 percent were female
  • 69 percent were adult; 31% were minors
  • 83 percent were US citizens
  • 61 percent were new victims

Ready to use your voice during Human Trafficking Awareness Month? Click here to download free graphics to use on social media. Let your family and friends know you’re joining the fight against human trafficking with the hashtag, #freedomiseverything

This month, and all year long, we have to stay mindful of this global problem that affects us locally. It starts with knowledge! Check out the following resources: The Polaris Project, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or listen to the podcast by Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. The more you learn and share, the more progress we make as a community to fight human trafficking and support the victims.


2The Global Slavery Index

3Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force

4Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force