Ending human trafficking begins with raising public awareness

More than 150 years ago, our nation fought a Civil War — brother against brother — to finally end slavery in America. Unfortunately, slavery remains in the form of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is real. It is the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry. Every year it devastates the lives of thousands of women and children in America — and it’s happening right here in our state.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It is about dedicating an entire month to educating people about human trafficking, its life-altering effects on survivors and what we can all do to stop it.

Children are especially vulnerable to this heinous crime, with 40 percent of human trafficking cases involving the sexual exploitation of a child.

Human trafficking is still clouded in shadow, and this month is a poignant time to shine the light on it.

The Michigan Senate Republicans led the effort to enact historic reforms in 2014 to combat human trafficking. Michigan’s 21 new laws were a loud and clear statement we’re serious about punishing traffickers, supporting survivors and increasing awareness and training.

Michigan now has some of the country’s strongest human trafficking laws and our efforts are working.

In fact, a recent report named Michigan as the most improved state for its laws addressing child sex trafficking.

While it is nice to be recognized, the true reward is the profound positive impact these new laws are making in the lives of survivors.

If you believe you have witnessed or are aware of a potential case of human trafficking, call your local police or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline toll-free, 24-hours-a-day at 1-888-3737-888.