Opening Our Eyes To Modern Slavery

Opening Our Eyes To Modern Slavery

We have a story that we love to talk about

A young boy on a beach who’s throwing starfish into the ocean

Older man approaches the young boy and says, boy what are you doing? 

He says, tide is low, the sun is high and if I don’t get them all back into the ocean, they’re gonna shrivel up and die.

The man points to the boy and says, look down the beach, look down the shore line, there’s millions of ‘em or thousands of ‘em. There’s no way that you can get them all back. Do you think you can really make a difference?

(Note: This article contains information about child trafficking that some may find disturbing)


The dialog above is from the documentary movie Operation Toussaint - the first trafficking documentary that I saw - about an operation to rescue trafficked children in Haiti. The story was told in the beginning of the documentary, and it stayed with me ever since.

I used to think that human trafficking was the process of kidnapping children and smuggling people - something that only law enforcement could really do anything about. Later on, I learned that human trafficking involves so much more than kidnapping and smuggling. 

“Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” This is how Homeland Security defines human trafficking. It can involve moving individuals, but it doesn’t have to. These days human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, no longer requires physical contact between the target and the trafficker.

A recent article caught my attention - about a teenager who was suing a social media company, alleging that the company profited from an explicit video featuring him and another minor. According to the lawsuit, when the teenager was between 13 and 14, a trafficker (or a group of traffickers) posed as a 16-year old girl to trick the boy into sending explicit images of himself. Afterwards, the trafficker(s) blackmailed the boy into providing an explicit video of himself with another minor. When the teenager discovered the explicit video was published on social media, he and his mother requested that it be taken down. The social media company allegedly refused to remove the illegal material, and continued to promote it until law enforcement intervened.

This teenager’s story made me think of my niece who’s around the same age, and is active on social media. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first case of online enticement - a common exploitation tactic that involves grooming a child to take sexually explicit images with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction. Last year, when most children switched to virtual learning, NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) reported more than 90% increase in online enticement, compared to the same time frame in 2019 - roughly from 19,000 to 37,000.

In 2020, NCMEC’s CyberTipline, the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children, received more than 21 million reports of child sexual exploitation. These reports included more than 65 million images, videos, and other files containing suspected child sexual abuse material.

After reading all this, maybe you’re wondering: What can I do? How can we make a difference?


Make your voice heard

Human trafficking, including child trafficking and exploitation, continues to happen because there’s a high demand for it, and it’s estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry. 

During the pandemic lockdown, there was a spike in porn site viewership, which in turn increased demand for fresh contents. At times, such contents featured trafficked individuals and exploited children.

Last year, a group of women filed a lawsuit against a porn site, which allegedly benefited from a sex-trafficking scheme. After the allegation was made public, major credit card companies blocked their customers from using their cards on the website, and a public petition demanding the site to be shut down was signed by millions. In the US, a bipartisan bill called Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act of 2020 was introduced. The bill allows survivors to sue companies such as a porn website for hosting illegal content depicting them.

Making your voice heard can make a difference.


Increase Awareness

Learn to recognize the signs of trafficking and how to respond to possible trafficking cases through resources such as DHS Blue Campaign and NCMEC’s Child Sex Trafficking Indicators & Online Enticement Red Flags.


Teach your loved ones to stay safe online and beyond 

NCMEC has a couple of programs to keep the young ones safe: NetSmartz and KidSmartz. NetSmartz provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safe online, and become more aware of potential online risks. KidSmartz is a child safety program that educates families about preventing abduction and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors.

Going back to the story above, here’s how the story ends:

The young boy thinks for a moment then just starts tossing starfish back into the ocean, turns to the older gentleman and says,

I don’t know, but I know I just made a difference for that one.


Thank you for reading and for your support. Together we can make a difference.




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