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The History Behind Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the United States

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

As the month of January begins, so does the focus on making individuals aware of Human Trafficking and what we as a nation, community, and individuals can do to end it. However, when did Human Trafficking Awareness month begin in the United States? That is where I come in to provide a historical look at how January came to be Human Trafficking Awareness month.

To begin, The United Nations defines human trafficking as, “The recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force, for the purpose of exploitation” (San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission, 2022, para 1). Expanding on this there are three main types of human trafficking, these are sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. The biggest in the world according to the U.S. Department of State is forced labor also known as involuntary servitude. Signs of all three types of human trafficking include signs of controlled movement, false identity or documents, limited to no social interaction, and having limited contact with family and friends (San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission, 2022). The United States also has a Human Trafficking Hotline, where individuals can seek help, report or tip, or learn more about Human Trafficking (U.S. Department of State, 2022).

Diving into U.S. history we begin over 20 years ago when The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 passed, becoming the first comprehensive federal law to provide protection to trafficking victims and to prosecute traffickers within the United States. The law strives to combat trafficking into and outside the United States of America, through the prevention of trafficking by providing public awareness, protection, and support to victims and establishing trafficking as a federal crime with severe penalties. The passing of this law marked the beginning of the commitment from the United States to combat human trafficking within the country and internationally. Ten years after TVPA was passed U.S. President Obama proclaimed January to be “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month,” and each year after every president of the United States has stayed true to this proclamation (U.S. Department of State, 2022).

Human trafficking is a social issue that has been around for centuries, it is a social issue that any individual can support and work to end by learning the indicators of human trafficking, volunteering and supporting anti-trafficking organizations and efforts within your community, and even using social media to raise awareness and support human trafficking. Be the change you want to see and join the fight to end human trafficking.


U.S. Department of State. (2022). National human trafficking prevention month.

San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission. (2022). What is human trafficking?

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