United States


Message to Readers

This op-ed piece talks openly about human trafficking (sex trafficking, labor trafficking), abuse, drug addiction, and mental health.

Op-Ed: Keep Yr Eyes Open (Human Trafficking Stops With Us)

August 9, 2022


Note: Please read "Message to Readers" if you would like a content warning. 

Slavery still exists in the United States. In contrast to slavery in the pre-Civil War years, contemporary slavery is harder to discern, even though it is widespread. It hides in motels adjacent to highways, in suburbia, and in sleepy rural towns. But, we can be a part of the solution. When a person, family, or community chooses to learn about human trafficking, it makes them and the people around them safer. In this op-ed, I will go over three steps that everyone can take.

For context, human trafficking is a term to cover both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. A trafficker can use force, fraud, and coercion to exploit their victims. It should be noted, “Human trafficking can take place even if the victim initially consented to providing labor, services, or commercial sex acts” (“Understanding Human Trafficking”).

Trafficking affects adults and children of all identities and backgrounds, but ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately affected. For example, an article by Taylor Paiz and Amber van Schooneveld says around four out of ten sex trafficking victims are Black, and trafficking also impacts Native Americans at a high rate (Paiz and Schooneveld). Traffickers are usually of the same group they are trafficking, but studies show white men are the people who fuel the industry through their purchases.

The first step to keeping ourselves and others safe is to have open conversations. I believe it is important to have a good support group of trusted people, such as friends and family, and to have conversations with them if you ever feel unsafe because of someone.

Of course, life is not perfect. Sometimes we are not connected with friends and family because they let us down or hurt us. Sometimes we might not have our needs met (food, shelter, money, etc.) 

In the case that you or a loved one need to talk to someone, professional counselors and therapists are fantastic outlets, and there are also free telephone counseling services. If you or a loved one need something more physical, like a place to stay the night or food, many cities have emergency shelters and serve food to those in need.

Traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable or that need something. Once they gain trust, they will meet the needs of their victim (in the case the trafficker is a family member, trust is easier to gain.) For example, if someone needs shelter, the trafficker will provide a place to stay. For emotionally vulnerable people, traffickers will pretend to care about them. Often, a trafficker will act as their victim’s partner.

A simple way we can help fight this is by having open and frank conversations with the people we love and by loving the people around us for who they are. I promise that it makes such a big difference.

If something seems wrong, such as a friend with a boyfriend who is being manipulative and pushy, ask about it and express your concerns. Do not victim-blame or tell them that they should have known better. Traffickers are skilled at manipulating victims for their gain, so they are the ones at fault.

The second step is to know the signs of a trafficking victim. A trafficked individual may have physical signs like bruises, broken bones, cuts, and branding (this can be something like a burn or a tattoo.) 

Other warning signs include malnourishment, interactions that appear scripted or fearful, and drug addiction. Mental health is often poor in trafficked individuals as well, and they can show signs of anxiety and depression. 

If you ever identify someone as a trafficking victim who is in immediate danger, call 911. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a good line to call if the victim is not in immediate danger or after you call 911.

The third step is to stay safe on the internet and to be aware of how the internet and trafficking are connected. Many traffickers recruit victims online. Traffickers can also control victims online, even if they are in different cities, through location tracking. A rule of thumb is not to give personal information or images to strangers or people you have just met. 

With the constantly changing internet, I believe it is important to recognize that exploitation is not entertainment. Traffickers are profiting off of videos of their victims. 

When companies fail to protect those who are being trafficked or even care that people are sharing illegal content on their platform, they should be held accountable. Most of the time, they are not. Personally, I choose not to engage with social media and other forms of media where trafficking is prevalent. 

To end, I believe we can make a change together and help put an end to human trafficking. I would encourage you to talk about trafficking to others, learn about the signs of trafficking (there are plenty of online courses for those who want to learn more), and review the safety of your online habits.

Works Cited:

Paiz, Taylor, and Amber van Schooneveld. “Race and Human Trafficking: How This Crime Disproportionately Affects Ethnic Minorities and Indigenous Persons.” The Exodus Road, 6 June 2022,

“Understanding Human Trafficking.” United States Department of State, 26 Apr. 2022,
If you or someone you love is a victim of trafficking, I would highly encourage you to call The National Human Trafficking Hotline. You are so important and so are the people you love <3

Hey friends! This is a topic that's been on my mind for a while now. I have spoken about it before in my community but I have never written extensively about it. I know poetry is kind of my schtick but I do enjoy writing opinion pieces and essays for fun when I have the time. I hope this piece is impactful and inspires change not only for individuals but for communities :)

Love y'all and thanks for reading!

- ▼・ᴥ・▼ (Caleb)


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  • August 9, 2022 - 1:29pm (Now Viewing)

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  • Hawkette

    Re: aw! Thank you. I deal with just loving fic char too much. Haha. Its nit as bad as it was, i wrote that a while ago. So yeah. :)

    about 2 months ago
  • liv marie

    re: sorry, forgot to respond. :(
    and thanks! he is. :)

    about 2 months ago
  • window, view from the

    Re: Thank you so much! Glad to know that everything flows well. :) You rock! <3

    about 2 months ago
  • Hullo, darling, I've stolen your knees

    re: Thank you!

    about 2 months ago
  • Yellow Sweater

    Re: hehe, it was actually meant to be a biblical reference... but I realized about two min after posting it that it could be a Kaur reference as well. Yeah, there really is a sense of mystery to the midwest. In some ways, it's really the perfect landscape to symbolize the American mythos. fertile, cold, violently flat, hated, loved, lived in... I've been a couple times, but its defiantly a landscape I want to get better squinted with. Each time I go what sticks me the most in the light. There is just so much unfiltered light. It's a little overwhelming for someone from a state full of trees, mountains, fjords, so many things for the light to bounce off of and be distorted and obstructed by.

    about 2 months ago
  • Blank Notebook

    Re: thanks so much for your lovey comment and advice! It means a lot to me and will certainly be helpful in future drafting. :)

    about 2 months ago
  • NightRain

    This is so important! Thank you for writing this. Have you read Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall? The author was a victim of human trafficking and this was her memoir. It was truly eye-opening.

    about 2 months ago
  • Paisley Blue

    Re: yes I agree I can't wait to find a church that resonates with me that values what I value. I'm glad you found one too :) I really want to go to Europe and go to a monastery for a while and stay there to worship and pray and write. My mom did a semester abroad when she was in college and stayed in france at a monastery and she tells me about the prayers every hour and the schedule and how there were some parts where people stayed in silence and prayer for days and days, and I want to do that so badly. I find God in personal worship, not in standing in pews with strangers singing repetitive hymns under my breath. And if that is how someone finds their worship that is great, its just not for me.

    about 2 months ago
  • Paisley Blue

    Re: what you said about feeling closer to God at that service focused around acceptance and diversity vs at church, i understand completely. I feel so distant at church, because I feel somewhat forced to play a person who im not to conform to the church's ideal (even the surface-level me is sometimes pushing the boundaries of what's "ok" there) that its hard to really worship when im so worried about that...

    "It's this strange thing where people are so quick to say "Jesus gets me and understands me," and they take pride in that, yet refuse to understand others around them" Yes! I absolutely agree. One of my biggest frustrations, one of the problems of this world that digs under my skin so deeply, is that people are close-minded. Not that they are ignorant, but that so many have no interest in learning when learning is available—especially in regards to people different than them. We are so hung up on being right that it corrupts.

    Diversity in churches is one of the biggest things that I wish to see in religious reformation or even just as people try to rewrite the traditional (read: racist, sexist, narrow-minded) ideas of how religion should be. I long for a church that celebrates difference, that accepts because yes that is what we're called to do. Unity over uniformity. Learning and humility over pride. It may be too much to ask, but i long for it.

    Thank you for this conversation :) its given me a lot to think and pray on!!

    about 2 months ago
  • Paisley Blue

    Yes yes yes! This is so important, thank you for this :) though it can be uncomfortable to start conversations on topics like this, I think we all deserve it to bring it to light. I know I personally will be using this as an opener to my own conversations :) thank you!

    Re: first of all, congrats! And good riddance to your writers block! I am very impressed with your piece, the tone is professional, the evidence is great and your argument is compelling. Really nice job!

    That movie sounds problematic in a number of ways, and it does make me really frustrated. Especially the racism and sexism you described. My mom sent me something recently that I can't remember word for word, but it was something along the lines of, "Christianity is being turned into something its not, and people leaving Christianity are not leaving God, they are being Christian by understanding that much of widespread Christianity is going against God's wishes" or something (it was worded wayyyy better, I wish I could find it). It made me think about how wrong, how politicized and polarized so much of Christianity has become. I believe one of the foundational things that Jesus taught is to serve and love and lift up anyone who is in need—and in today's world, that means Christians should be the ones fighting for minority rights and representation, should be celebrating all races and ethnicities and identities, instead of distancing and looking for power. It makes me so angry that Christianity has been reduced to what it is. And this is not to say that all christians support those things—a wide majority are like you and I and want to help and spread God's love. But there are just enough that the label of Christian has been tainted with hate and discrimination. There are times when im ashamed to label myself as such.

    And to answer your question, I think art plays an essential part in representation and support and love. Artists reflect the world and the way it is against the way it should/could be, so yes as christian artists I believe we need to show the world the way we should be loving all people, including and especially minority groups. As for explicitly how to do that, I suppose it is different for each artist...

    I hope this is what you were asking, I feel like I sort of went off on a tangent there. I'm far too often disappointed with Christian art and media for being so discriminatory and hateful. That's not who we are, thats not who we're called to be. Why, then, are we representing ourselves like this??

    And it disgusts me that people like that woman and her group refuse to open their minds and ask if they're truly following Jesus' example of love, because dare I say they could probably change for the better if they'd only understand that their understanding of the world/of God isn't the only one there is? Idk. Idk. It just makes me upset.

    I'm going to keep trying to find that post, I think, maybe if I do I'll tell you what it actually said lol. Hope youre doing well today :)

    2 months ago
  • The Dying Rose

    This is stunning! Thank you for writing so openly about such a horrible subject. Human trafficking is disgusting and needs to be stopped.

    2 months ago