As Americans, it can be easy to think of slavery as a “back then” problem. We have a violent national struggle to point back to and the 13th amendment still declaring the abolition of slavery in our Constitution.  “We’re past that,” we think, naively believing that slavery was conquered in our country and our world with a piece of paper.
Those historical events granted freedom for nearly 4 million slaves in our country, giving us the idea that slavery is a thing of the past. But this number barely comes close to the estimated 27 million people experiencing slavery in our world today. The average age of these victims is 12 years old, a sixth-grader by our standards. The harsh reality is that there’s no amendment coming to them or war being fought over them. Only 1-2% of these silent victims will ever be rescued. 
Again, the temptation to believe this is only happening on the other side of the world is great, but would you believe that human beings are being bought and sold just next door to where you grocery shop or get your hair done? In Colorado alone, the National Human Resource Trafficking Center has received 89 reported cases—the highest number in the last five years—of human trafficking and we can’t know how many instances are proceeding without our awareness. That’s 89 human beings who have been treated like products and not people, who have been used for forced labor or sexual gratification and profit. That’s 89 people who have had their God-given dignity and value stripped away from them.
Nobel peace prize winner, social activist, and Archbishop Emaritus Desmond Tutu one said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” So, how can we speak up? How can we choose to stand for the oppressed? Here are a few things you can do today:

1 // Keep your eyes open

That’s not a massage parlor next door. Knowing the signs of human trafficking is the first step in being able to identify it and report it. This is especially important for individuals serving the public—doctors, nurses, airline stewardess’, and other transportation workers—can be more likely to come in contact with victims and offer help. 

2 // Become a more conscious consumer

Through your purchases—at the mall, the grocery store, or anywhere else—you could be contributing to forced manual labor. Find out how you could be contributing to slavery with this quick quiz and do your research about the products you buy. Buying fair trade, American made, or from companies that have more transparent supply chains and fair labor practices can decrease your input into this worldwide problem.