Today is the national day of human trafficking awareness. It’s been a good eighteen years since I’ve been advocating for freedom for those being trafficked, including starting two anti-trafficking nonprofits that were designed to help everyday people to do something about it. But how I started as an abolitionist, or what we called those who fought modern slavery, is different than how I fight human trafficking now.

I didn’t even intend to get as involved in the human trafficking movement like I did (you can read How I Became an Accidental Expert and Then I Resigned). It proved to me that everyday people can do something great when they work together. But despite what we did–raise over $100,000, help victims get out, walk with survivors, bring up more grassroots org, etc… (and the trickle effect keeps trickling), we had a few things to learn along the way. We had to grow into better advocates.

Personally, I have changed a lot in how I fight human trafficking, especially in the last ten years. Today I was reflecting on this and I was surprised when writing it out just to notice how differently I would recommend the everyday person can get involved. Of course, there are many things that I did back in 2013 that I still do now, and this list is far from exhaustive. But it was definitely worth naming the changes that brought me into better practices. You can compare these below:

How I Fought Trafficking in 2013

  • Donate to huge human trafficking orgs
  • Ask trafficking survivors to speak about their trauma without paying them
  • Wear “stop modern slavery” and “I’m an abolitionist” shirts
  • Consume falsely dramatic books and movies about trafficking
  • Get angry & judgey at people who don’t want to know more
  • Donate to orgs without researching:
    • How they used their $
    • If they exploit survivors
    • If they practice trauma-informed care
    • Their recidivism rate (how often they return to be trafficked)
  • Calling types of sex trafficking “prostitution”

How I Fight Trafficking in 2023

  • Follow survivor leaders
  • Fund small nonprofits + donate needed items to recovery homes
  • Learn about trauma-informed care
  • Wear blue on 1/11 and black in March with Blackout trafficking
  • Read true trafficking stories with your bookclub
  • Mentor at-risk youth
  • Bring trafficking trainings to your workplace or kids’ school
  • Participate in a fundraising and awareness campaigns

Why Did I Change?

Why did I change? So many reasons. Being exposed to trafficking survivors really opened my eyes. Learning from them let me see that often they came out of trafficking just to exploited by (often well-meaning) nonprofits for the “greater good.” Or that often those I thought were simply sex workers weren’t doing it by choice, not really–I saw nuance and gray where before there was only black and white. Then there was being a leader of small nonprofits and then partnering with others that were small. Their needs were so reachable and the specialized work they could do if they just had more support. These are just some examples.

Changing Advocacy = Changing Advocates

I’m not proud of everything I used to do, but I’m also grateful there was space for me to learn. And I still am, just like you! I am no doubt that in 2024, I will be able to write another post depicting the ways I changed in how I did antitrafficking work over the next ten years! Heck, I could probably even write a new one in a year from now.

That being said, here’s your reminders for today:

1.) Fighting to bring freedom is still important, just like it was when I first learned about it in 2005

2.) We change as advocates. And that’s a good thing.

­čî┐ Tell me one way you used to fight trafficking or one way you’re going to fighting human trafficking this year in the comments!

­čî┐ Please share 2023’s ideas to do something about trafficking if you want to empower others!

Ways to do something about human trafficking in 2013 vs. 2023

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