Ludmila Golovine, President & CEO
Every year since 2010, January has marked National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, meant to bring attention to the different forms of trafficking and how we can identify them. Human trafficking, a 150 billion dollar-a-year industry, is modern-day slavery, be it for sexual exploitation or labor. Most survivors suffer severe violence. Without realizing it, we have all likely encountered someone who has been trafficked, perhaps working in a nail salon, at a hotel, or passing by at a grocery store.
This is an issue that can affect anyone. Sometimes, it can be the person next door, and we might not even know it. While traffickers disproportionately target the poor and the young, they do not discriminate against race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. Over 40 million people are trafficked annually worldwide, and no country or city is exempt. Houston, Texas, for example, consistently ranks among the top five cities for human trafficking in the US. Most calls to the National Trafficking Hotline come from Houston.
What can we do to help? We can combat modern-day slavery by understanding the signs of human trafficking. Knowing how to spot the signs and what actions to take could save a life.
Increasing our awareness of common signs is the first step. As language professionals, we can also learn about trauma-informed interpreting. Someone being trafficked is likely to look like they have poor mental or physical health. They may exhibit abnormal behaviors or seem to have little control over their own life. We may notice the person is suffering memory loss, lack of focus, emotional reactivity, or may share multiple versions of a story during an interpreting encounter.
As interpreters, working with a survivor, it’s important to remember that we can’t let these signs of trauma frustrate us. Rather, we should be aware of them and learn how we can support the recovery process by providing trauma-informed interpreting. We can learn about trauma, its widespread impact, and its lasting, adverse effects on survivors’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being.. We can learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in patients, families, and staff, and integrate knowledge about trauma into the way we interpret to actively avoid re-traumatization.
Combatting human trafficking has been a priority for MasterWord. We are members of Texas Businesses Against Trafficking (TBAT), the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Taskforce, Houston 20, and the United Against Human Trafficking Coalition. We have been working hard raising awareness and developing tools and training to help social workers, first responders, and language professionals who work with survivors and are dedicating 2022 to raising awareness more about human trafficking. On March 4th, I will be hosting a free webinar called Interpreting for the Vulnerable, designed to help interpreters spot the signs of trafficking and have the tools in place to effectively respond.
While Human Trafficking Awareness Month is coming to an end, the need to prevent modern-day slavery continues. Together we can help save lives.