Survivors work to prevent human trafficking, aid victims

Survivors work to prevent human trafficking, aid victims

By Lauren Monsen

Left: Holly Austin Gibbs (© Kim Van Oosten/Catholic Health Association) Right: Tanya Gould (Courtesy of Tanya Gould)

Victims of human trafficking come from every region of the globe. Increasingly, survivors are taking the lead in the fight against the crime and in helping its victims to heal.

To understand the scope of the problem, caused primarily by criminals subjecting victims to forced labor or sex trafficking, one need only see the International Labour Organization estimates, which say that at any given time in 2021:

  • 21 million people worked in a factory, on a farm or as a domestic worker under threat of penalty or harm.
  • 6 million people — adults and children (99% female) — were forced to participate in the sex industry.
Signs recruit women to leave Manila, the Philippines, for work in the Middle East. The country is fighting illegal ads aiding human traffickers. (© Aaron Favila/AP)


Since 2010, every U.S. president has dedicated January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11 is observed as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. (The Department of Homeland Security will host #WearBlueDay on social media on January 11.)

Survivors spare others

Portrait of smiling woman (Courtesy of Tanya Gould)
Tanya Gould (Courtesy of Tanya Gould)

Two survivor leaders spoke with ShareAmerica about protecting young people, in particular.

Tanya Gould, the anti-human trafficking director for the attorney general of Virginia, brings a survivor’s perspective to the state’s response to the problem.

Gould says parents should make “internet guardianship” a priority because traffickers often seek young victims online. “Teach your kids that buying sex is wrong. Everything is not for sale, and the value of sex and intimacy is priceless.”

School staffers should be trained to identify traffickers and minors under their influence, she said. In addition, adults who supervise children should know how to use reporting protocols for suspected trafficking.

Parents and guardians can educate themselves by watching videos of survivors telling their stories and learning about apps that traffickers use to contact young people….