Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Exposing the horrific crime of modern-day slavery


It is hard to understand the fact that there are tens of millions of people in slavery today. Shockingly, slavery exists everywhere in the world, including the United States, where there are an estimated 1.5 million people enslaved, according to the website Free the Slaves. Slavery manifests itself in many different forms including debt bondage, contract slavery, sex trafficking, forced or servile marriage, domestic servitude, child labor and child soldiers.

Slavery is a degrading crime that is a violation of human rights, and it is happening in our own backyard. However, there are steps we can take to help eradicate this ill from society. One of the best ways to do this is by raising awareness and educating others about the fact that slavery does still exist. There are many non-profit organizations that have websites with extensive information on human trafficking, including Free the Slaves and Love146. Educating vulnerable and young populations about the warning signs of human trafficking is necessary to prevent it.

The implementation of policy is also necessary to fight this crime. Reaching out to congressional representatives, senators and other government officials can help to motivate policymakers to initiate the creation of legislation that makes it more difficult for traffickers to find loopholes in the law and prevent them for committing crimes undetected. One kind of loophole in legislation that traffickers find is through using work and finance visas to bring their victims into the U.S. Over half of the human traffickers known to federal law enforcement use this method.

On Feb. 15, actor Ashton Kutcher testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he discussed the foundation that he co-founded, Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, and he suggested ways to put an end to the crime of human trafficking.

Thorn is a foundation that uses technology and software to combat the sexual exploitation of children. One tool that they have made is called “Spotlight,” which is used to locate children who have been bought and sold online.

Kutcher said that the fight against human trafficking is “a bipartisan effort in a country that is riddled with bipartisan separation on so many things.” Both Democrats and Republicans have been working together on this issue One such example was seen in the Washington House of Representatives, who unanimously passed House Bill 1184 which “strengthens human trafficking laws by allowing law enforcement to conduct effective sting operations through online transactions” in February 2017.

Kutcher got emotional when he began to discuss his own experience witnessing human trafficking, including FBI raids that he went on and seeing a video of a child that was raped by an American man in Cambodia as a sex tourist.

Human trafficking strips children of their innocence, robs them of their childhood and leaves an imprint on them that lasts forever. Kutcher opened his testimony by saying “I am here today to defend the right to pursue happiness…but the right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away. It’s raped, abused, it’s taken by force, fraud or coercion, it is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”

Kutcher presented four steps that need to be taken in order to abolish slavery.

The first step in the process is raising money and finding a way to finance the building of tools, like “Spotlight,” to catch the traffickers.

Secondly, Kutcher stated that we have to support private-public partnerships, such as Thorn, so that more children can be rescued at a faster rate. John and Cindy McCain have helped Thorn expand tremendously as well as sources from the private sector, who have donated to the organization.

Thirdly, Kutcher said that the rehabilitation and support system in place for victims needs to be expanded and improved. Many victims suffer from mental illness after their experience and it is important that they be given the proper support after being rescued, so that they do not return to trafficking. Kutcher also pointed out the fact that the foster care system in America is flawed and a child in foster care is actually four times more likely to be exposed to human trafficking. Kutcher refers to the foster system as a “breeding ground” for slavery, which is something that needs to be reformed with better resources and support.

Lastly, Kutcher suggests that there needs to be a bifurcation of sex and labor trafficking. This is because the solutions for each of them are vastly different, so they need to be treated as separate issues that are approached with different strategies.

Unfortunately, according to the United Nations News Centre, slavery is one of the most profitable crimes in the world and reversing this reality is going to be an enormous task. But through raising awareness, policy implementation, the expansion of tools like “Spotlight” and the continued support of organizations like Thorn, more victims can be rescued and human trafficking can be prevented.

Kate Stoppiello is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • D

    David Hunt 1990Feb 27, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Er… fitting PUNISHMENT… mistyped.

    And, IMHO, leave the bodies until they rot. And publicize the fate of human traffickers.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Feb 27, 2017 at 11:55 am

    The best, most fitting crime for a human trafficker involves a “short drop and a sudden stop”.

  • S

    Sitting BullFeb 27, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Human trafficking in the United States occurs primarily over the Mexican border. That alone could be a solid justification for building a wall and fortifying our border. Not to mention the multi-billion dollar drug and illegal weapon trade, or the strong possibility of drug cartel-ISIS/terrorist of the month cooperation.