Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery The Woman’s Center offers a lifeline

By Heather Grant

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.

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