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There are only 12 months in a year, so most months we are celebrating or raising awareness of more than one issue or need. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. From posters to coasters, from conversations to formal training, a new, statewide Colorado campaign will share the critical message: anyone can be a victim.

Human trafficking can be difficult to recognize. The public may not realize that people don’t always recognize that what they’re experiencing is human trafficking. The 2023 campaign puts into words that gut feeling that something isn’t right. It helps people identify human trafficking for what it is: a crime.

“This experience [human trafficking] is so confusing, and the relationships embedded into it are extremely complicated,” an anonymous human trafficking survivor explained during a research interview. “However, I took one small step, telling someone that something wasn’t right, and from there, my journey and experiences started to change.”

All forms of human trafficking involve the exploitation of one individual by another for some kind of benefit – often economic. A simple definition of human trafficking is the severe exploitation of another person through force, fraud, or coercion for some type of labor, including commercial sex.

“Victims/survivors may not understand their circumstance as trafficking or are unsure how to get help,” said Program Manager and spokesperson for the Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC) Maria Trujillo. “Traffickers are often in a close or intimate relationship with those they exploit, making the crime more complex.”

To help reach potential victims – and community members who might be able to help them – the Council has organized a robust campaign beginning this month and continuing throughout 2023. Governor Jared Polis has declared January as Colorado Human Trafficking Awareness Month, coinciding with the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month established by President Obama in 2010.

State partners include the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The campaign will place outreach materials in vaccine buses, rest stops, visitor centers, bars and restaurants, and other locations where they hope to reach potential victims or witnesses of human trafficking.

Traffickers, their victims, and survivors represent people of all races, genders, and social or economic statuses. Traffickers often exploit people who appear vulnerable. Interrelated factors that can leave someone vulnerable include:

  • Poverty
  • Housing insecurity
  • Any unstable living environment
  • Addiction or substance use
  • Lack of support from family or friends
  • Lack of access to services

If you suspect human trafficking is happening to you or someone you know or have seen, leave a tip or get assistance, call anonymously 24/7 at 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724.

Human trafficking is a crime in Colorado. Learn what to look for at  ThisisHumanTrafficking.com.

The Colorado Human Trafficking Council was established by legislation in 2014. It operates under the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, and Office for Victims Programs. The Council comprises up to 35 representatives from state and non-government agencies and coordinates statewide anti-human trafficking efforts to better prosecute and prevent trafficking in Colorado.

Featured image: Photo image courtesy of www.cdss.ca.gov.