By Kirstie Thibodeaux
For the longest time, when I thought of slavery, I thought of the transatlantic slave trade. The past.  Surely we all think that slavery like that doesn’t happen anymore, right? I was shocked to find out how wrong I was. Modern day slavery, also known as human trafficking, is roughly estimated as a $32 billion industry. By international definition, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, child trafficking, and child soldiers, all fall under the umbrella of human trafficking. Furthermore, many believe that human trafficking is happening only in underdeveloped countries.  This is wrong, it also happens in the United States.  
Imagine your child maturing enough to start dating. One day you notice that they are buying new things, more money that’s unaccounted for, and/or buying nice clothes. Then one day they are gone. Pimps come in many deceiving forms, one which is the “Romeo pimp.” These pimps make their victims fall in love with them, and before they know it, the victims are being raped, beaten, drugged, and sold for sex. Multiple times a day.
Imagine a loved one is trying to find work. They answer an ad about a job not necessarily far away. Ready to work and to make money, they eagerly accept the job. Conditions are rough, they are mistreated, and are paid significantly less than promised, if anything at all. They decide they want to leave, only to be beaten and told that they are not allowed to go.
Imagine sitting outside on a warm afternoon, watching your children run around with friends, without a care in the world. Then suddenly a group of people with guns’ swarm around, shooting the adults and kidnapping the children. Your children evolve from innocent child’s playing to becoming the property of a rebel army group. Their life will have forever changed. Rebel armies essentially kidnap children and force them to work for their cause, many themselves becoming soldiers, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Children as young as ten years old (sometimes younger) are given guns, and are given the ultimatum of kill or be killed, while others are used as cooks, porters, spies, or sex concubines. Each of these scenarios represent different types of trafficking. While some, such as child soldiers are more commonly known in conflict zones overseas, other forms of trafficking are prominent worldwide. That includes the United States. Human trafficking is an issue that does not discriminate geographically.
To fight human trafficking, we need increased awareness (sum up ted talk and link: United4Change Center is committed to addressing the educational, social and economic factors that influence vulnerability to many challenges to human development, including human trafficking.