Human Trafficking

And How You Can Help

Sandy Woodhouse
5 min readOct 3, 2021


In these past few centuries, humanity has made huge progress in the eradication of human trafficking and slavery. With new laws and human rights campaigning, such practices are now criminalised and disgraced on a global scale. However, as much as we should appreciate the progress we have made so far, the fight is not over.

The modern image of slavery is of ancient problems echoing into the current age. Most of the discourse you hear is of its relationship to the transatlantic slave trade, but the truth is slavery is still a very real problem. And no, it is not hidden away in some far off land, it is in fact thriving in our western communities.

The human trafficking industry makes 150 billion dollars a year. It is currently the fastest growing area of crime and covers forced marriages, slave labour, organ harvesting, and sex, to name a few. There are an estimated 40,000,000 people caught in modern slavery, more than at any point in our entire history. So by what standards are we concluding that slavery is a solved problem?

Governments and organisations all over the world are working to end human trafficking and modern slavery. One key figure on the frontlines is the ex-Homeland Security & CIA special agent Tim Ballard, the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). Ballard and his organisation focus specifically on the rescue and rehabilitation of the 2,000,000 children in sex slavery, and have recently been doing the rounds on social and corporate media to spread awareness of the problem.

“With the amount of money made buying and selling people every year, you could buy every Starbucks franchise in the world, you could buy every NBA team, and still have enough money left over to send every US child to college for four years. That’s how much money is spent in modern day slavery every year. That’s why I say this isn’t a peripheral thing, even though we act like it is because we don’t want to address it, we don’t want to engage in it…” — Tim Ballard On Lewis Howes

As much as this problem is painful to confront, and seems so distant from our daily lives, we all have a part to play in this. As researcher Dr. Kate Transchel said in her TEDx talk:

“There are some concrete things you can do. The first and perhaps most important is to learn the signs. Every national and international agency that liberates slaves and works with victims says that the number one obstacle to ending slavery in the world today is lack of public awareness.”

From the website of UK human trafficking charity Unseen, here are some of the signs to look out for:


  • Shows signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, anxious/agitated or appear withdrawn and neglected. They may have untreated injuries


  • Rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
  • Relationships which don’t seem right — for example a young teenager appearing to be the boyfriend/girlfriend of a much older adult


  • Be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address


  • Have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in and day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
  • Have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retrained, e.g. passports


  • Be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night
  • Unusual travel arrangements — children being dropped off/picked up in private cars/taxis at unusual times and in places where it isn’t clear why they’d be there


  • Avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family

Maybe a day will come when you have the chance to make a lifesaving call.

“In the united states almost 75 percent of those who have been rescued from slavery in this country were rescued not because they were found by law enforcement, but because an ordinary citizen like you or I knew the signs of trafficking and slavery and called the national hotline and an investigation and rescue was launched.” — Dr. Kate Transchel TEDx

Where exactly does your money go, anyway? Aside from your wealth possibly ending up in hands of socialite traffickers, like the 577 million dollar Mr Epstein, many areas of businesses have connections to slave labour. Whether it be children mining minerals for mobile phone production, or sweatshop workers sewing clothes, you’d be surprised how your purchases could be connected to slavery. Take the quiz at to find an estimate of the number of slaves working for you.

The responsibility for this lies on us all. We are not to blame, but we are benefactors of these terrible crimes, and to do nothing about it is to be complicit. We have a responsibility to end slavery once and for all.

“Every great evil that’s ever existed on the planet in the history of the world, it didn’t go away unless people rose up. It’s not enough to sit back and say ‘Oh someone’s got it, there’s people that are on this’. Something this massive doesn’t go away unless everyone rises up and says ‘what can I do’… And maybe it’s not us you want to support, maybe there’s other organizations out there that the people support, we’re great with that, just get involved…” — Tim Ballard, Talks At Google