By: Marissa Gunther, Director of Growth Strategies, Shared Hope International
For the past 20 years, Shared Hope International has been working to bring justice to vulnerable adults and children who have survived and overcome being commercially sexually exploited. Our small but powerful team of 18 staffers has managed to secure a global network and reach, leading prevention strategies, restoration programs, and justice initiatives to combat trafficking in the United States and abroad.
The women and children we serve are no strangers to having their lives turned upside down, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, many of the women and children we serve domestically are being made more vulnerable as resources are cut off with the reality of school closings, lack of childcare, layoffs, and more.
Due to the limitations on schooling and resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a substantial increase in screen time for children; with limited ability of parents to supervise all online educational programming, there is an increased vulnerability to online exploitation. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has experienced a 90.46% increase in CyberTipline (the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children) reports of suspected child sexual abuse between January and June 2020 versus the same time period in 2019.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing that sex traffickers and buyers aren’t slowing down during this pandemic and are continuing to entrap more vulnerable youth with false promises. Despite the challenges that have risen during these uniquely challenging times, our resolve to protect children and restore survivors has only strengthened and we will not quit until every child is safe.
That’s why we support the United Nations’ global plan of action which includes concrete actions to prevent trafficking in persons, protect and assist victims, prosecute related crimes and strengthen partnerships among Governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, including the media. The Action Plan also includes the decision to establish a United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to be managed by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Additionally, the issue of human trafficking will be mainstreamed into broader United Nations policies and programmes on economic and social development, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, education, and natural disaster and post-conflict reconstruction.
The UN’s global plan of action includes World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and this year’s theme focuses on recognizing the work of first responders. These are the people who work in different sectors – identifying, supporting, counseling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers. During COVID-19, the role of first responders has become even more important, particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.
We see this day not just as an occasion, but as an opportunity to educate the public about the scourge of human trafficking and to mobilize a political force and the resources needed to truly address the source of the problem. We are running full speed towards the UN’s call to action. Everyone, not just first responders and government entities, can take action to stop trafficking before it ever happens.
So what can you do to support World Day Against Trafficking on July 30th? Consider the following actions as a great place to start.
- Celebrate and highlight the world of first responders in your county, community or organization.
- Share, like, and comment on social media posts or messages about World Day Against Trafficking.
- Offer to volunteer or donate to services in your communities that provide on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking.
We hope you will join our team at Shared Hope International as we stand with the UN on World Day Against Trafficking, carrying forward our mission to end this evil. We believe that together we can end human trafficking once and for all.
Learn more about the important work Shared Hope International is doing to combat human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.
About the Author
Marissa Gunther directs the Growth Strategies department for Shared Hope International, leading a team of passionate and talented staff and volunteers who implement Shared Hope’s Awareness and Faith Initiatives, and congeal Shared Hope’s impact and leadership on the issue of child sex trafficking in minds across the nation. Marissa is responsible for designing and creating Shared Hope’s strategic growth plan for all channels of financial support and provides oversight of all fundraising activities, including engagement and stewardship of Shared Hope’s major donors, acquiring corporate and foundation support, coordinating major fundraising events, and utilizing the contact management system, direct mail and digital strategies to increase Shared Hope’s visibility and impact. Marissa is impassioned to empower and mobilize people, groups and community leaders to leverage their spheres of influence to prevent child sex trafficking and to tangibly support survivors through advocacy, giving and volunteerism.