5K Race Aims to Support D.C.-Area Victims of Human Trafficking

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
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The inaugural “Freedom Happens Now” 5k race will support victims of modern-day slavery at a time when sex and labor trafficking are on the rise in the District.

The 5K will be held June 24 at Tyson’s Corner Center Plaza near the Silver Metro Line. Proceeds will benefit Polaris, which runs the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Human trafficking is the illegal practice of kidnapping people and moving them to another area, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sex work. The 10-year-old hotline offers victims and survivors a chance to ask for help, report tips and find the services they need, including legal and law enforcement aid.

Nationally, there were 26,727 calls made to the hotline in 2016, according to the organization. Of those, 7,572 involved human trafficking.

In the District of Columbia, there were 347 calls for assistance in 2016 and 85 human trafficking cases, according to Polaris. Those numbers are up from 2015 when there were 298 calls and 67 were identified as human trafficking cases.

Of the 85 cases reported in 2016, 55 cases were sex trafficking, while 21 involved labor trafficking, according to the data. Two cases were comprised of both sex and labor trafficking and seven were unspecified types of trafficking. Roughly 78 percent of them were female. More than 40 percent of the victims were under the age of 18.

“It’s not affecting a state, it’s affecting every state in the United States and people need to be aware of it,” Natika Washington, chief development officer at Polaris, told the AFRO.

According to the trafficking hotline website, the top industries for sex trafficking were online ads, hotels/motels, escort services, working on the street, and residential brothels. The top venues for labor trafficking were peddling rings, domestic work, begging rings, restaurants/food services, and professional/tech services.

“We’re coming at this by partnering with institutional leaders across those sectors and really giving them the tools and the resources to understand and identify what human trafficking is and also how to respond and get it out of their supply chain,” Washington said. “It’s a hidden crime, so very high profit, low risk.”

The hotline does not track racial information.

Meanwhile, human trafficking is a global problem that generates $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to Human Rights First, a New York based non-profit. To that end, Polaris also works with state and federal lawmakers — including nearly 20 senators and members of Congress — on legislation that attempts to crack down on human traffickers.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 40 percent of the confirmed trafficking victims were Black in 2011 9.8 percent of labor trafficking victims were Black. In the same year, 94 percent of sex trafficking victims were female and 68.3 percent of labor trafficking victims were female.

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