By Amanda Kloer, Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Amanda Kloer is an editor with Change.org, where she organizes and promotes campaigns to end human trafficking. She has created numerous reports, documentaries and training materials on human trafficking in the United States and around the world.
Human trafficking might not be something we think about on a daily basis, but this crime affects the communities where we live, the products which we buy and the people who we care about. Want to learn more? Here are the five most important things to know about human trafficking:
1. Human trafficking is slavery.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It involves one person controlling another and exploiting him or her for work. Like historical slavery, human trafficking is a business that generates billions of dollars a year. But unlike historical slavery, human trafficking is not legal anywhere in the world. Instead of being held by law, victims are trapped physically, psychologically, financially or emotionally by their traffickers.
2. It's happening where you live.
Stories about human trafficking are often set in far-away places, like cities in Cambodia, small towns in Moldova, or rural parts of Brazil. But human trafficking happens in cities and towns all over the world, including in the United States. Enslaved farmworkers have been found harvesting tomatoes in Florida and picking strawberries in California. Young girls have been forced into prostitution in Toledo, Atlanta, Wichita, Los Angeles, and other cities and towns across America. Women have been enslaved as domestic workers in homes in Maryland and New York. And human trafficking victims have been found working in restaurants, hotels, nail salons, and shops in small towns and booming cities. Wherever you live, chances are some form of human trafficking has taken place there.
3. It's happening to people just like you.
Human trafficking doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender, or religion. Anyone can be a victim. Most of the human trafficking victims in the world are female and under 18, but men and older adults can be trafficking victims too. While poverty, lack of education, and belonging to a marginalized group are all factors that increase risk of trafficking, victims of modern-day slavery have included children from middle-class families, women with college degrees, and people from dominant religious or ethnic groups.
4. Products you eat, wear, and use every day may have been made by human trafficking victims.
Human trafficking isn't just in your town - it's in your home, since human trafficking victims are forced to make many of the products we use everyday, according to ProductsofSlavery.org. If your kitchen is stocked with rice, chocolate, fresh produce, fish, or coffee, those edibles might have been harvested by trafficking victims. If you're wearing gold jewelry, athletic shoes, or cotton underwear, you might be wearing something made by slaves. And if your home contains a rug, a soccer ball, fresh flowers, a cell phone, or Christmas decorations, then slavery is quite possibly in your house. Human trafficking in the production of consumer goods is so widespread, most people in America have worn, touched, or consumed a product of slavery at some point.
5. We can stop human trafficking in our lifetime.
The good news is not only that we can end human trafficking around the world, we can end it within a generation. But to achieve that goal, everyone needs to work together. Already, activists around the world are launching and winning campaigns to hold governments and companies accountable for human trafficking, create better laws, and prevent trafficking in their communities. You can start a campaign on Change.org to fight trafficking in your community. You can also fight trafficking by buying from companies that have transparent and slave-free supply chains, volunteering for or donating to organizations fighting trafficking, and talking to your friends and family about the issue. Together, we can fight human trafficking … and win.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Amanda Kloer.