Slavery still exists. It simply changed forms and the internet has fueled it. Human Trafficking is slavery. It is abducting and having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation, usually selling that person for forced sex or labor.
The majority of trafficking victims are between 18-24 years old. Many are younger. Statistics show that within the first 48 hours a child is missing, he or she is likely to be approached by a human trafficker. They may be lured with false offers of help. Then they will be beaten, threatened and sold for sex again and again, up to 20 times a day. It does not only happen on the worst street corners or shady, low end motels. It happens everywhere including in single family residential neighborhoods.
In New Jersey, no one is better at recognizing it than Dawne Lomangino-DiMauro of The Women’s Center, Director of Statewide Human Trafficking Services. She has seen evidence of modern slavery for years, even before the government officially recognized it in 2000. Lomangino-DiMauro now heads up Dream Catcher, a task force led by the FBI to end trafficking.
“Slaves no longer have chains around their ankles,” says Lo-mangino-DiMauro. “They now have chains around their mind.” Victims of trafficking are victims of fraud, force and coercion. The rise of the internet has made the slave trade boom. People are sold and bought online. Trafficking victims are often lured through social media.
The best way to fight slavery is to report anything suspicious. “If you see something, say something,” Lomangino-DiMauro advises. The Women’s Center has a 24 hour hotline you can call. 1-800-286-4184. Volunteers and donations to their office in Linwood are very helpful. Volunteers are needed to do secretarial work so the team can focus on rescuing and rehabilitating survivors of human trafficking. Donations go primarily towards helping victims get back on their feet.Lomangino-DiMauro says it is impossible to generalize the victims due to the variety of cases. The oldest victim she has worked with was 75. The youngest was 10. However, every victim she has ever rescued was hungry and abused.
Traffickers target the most vulnerable populations. Many victims have been abused previously and often come out of the foster care system. LGBT individuals and people with developmental disabilities are disproportionately targeted.