Something that has been weighing heavily on my mind are the victims of COVID-19 that aren't being as frequently discussed- folks that fall into the populations of being incarcerated, homeless, trafficked, or in abusive situations. We must do what we can for these populations, as well, and expand our understanding of what being vulnerable fully encompasses. If you see something, do something. Look out for signs and alert your local authorities, be a voice for the voiceless.
I saw a post today that said we should "Stay at Home because we are Safe at home" and I think it is important to bring into awareness that that is not the case for everyone. Those of us that have a home, are privileged to have one and those of us that have a home where we are loved, are blessed and even more privileged to have one. As some of you know, before classes on Friday mornings, I would wake up at 3 am, prepare myself and report to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department by 4 am. As a volunteer for FAIR Girls, I rode along with the Metropolitan Police Department around the 6th district, which includes parts of North and South East DC. Another volunteer, officer, and I would provide resources, such as shower gel, deodorant, lotion, and other hygiene products, to victims of Human Trafficking while also informing them of other housing/shelter resources available. Each morning, no matter how cold it was, we would at least see 7/8 women- some even barefoot. Now, because of COVID-19, that service has stopped, and my heart breaks thinking of what those women may be going through. Additionally, while we were able to provide services to women, that does not even account for the number of men and nonbinary folks and children that are being affected, as well.
The articles below provide an interesting read on how COVID-19 may be affecting victims of modern day slavery, but something to note is that these articles are discussing Australia, China and the UK. It is important for us to think about how this also exists in America and to try to be more thoughtful when we think about the gravity of COVID-19 and the vast amount of people it is truly affecting. It is important for us to question why our country has not been more thoughtful in these discussions. It is important for us to think about why these groups of people are out of our awareness, when they too make up this nation.
Many shelters are on lock down and in fact, even those that are available tend to be difficult for victims of human trafficking to adjust to due to the complexity of the trauma. It is important in this time to donate to the organizations that are on the front lines of this, such as FAIR Girls, whose shelter is still running, and larger organizations like Polaris, who runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Additionally, here are some tips from the FBI on how Human Trafficking may be transforming in light of COVID 19:
Be vigilant of traffickers using online services, such as social media (FB, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat) or dating apps, that may lure folks in via force fraud or coercion.
Beware of folks recruiting labor trafficking victims through what may appear to be job offers such as modeling agencies.
Contact local law enforcement agency, Local FBI, National Human Trafficking hotline and etc.
If you or someone you know is affected keep all original documentation, emails, texts, and logs of communication.
If you or someone you know is being affected, specifically in the DC area you can reach both at:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
Fair Girls Crisis Number: 1-855-900-3247
Or send a text to “BeFree” (233733)
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is important that we remember this quote by Maya Angelou:
“The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free”