This is Human Trafficking Awareness Month — and please don’t stop reading at this point, telling yourself you don’t need to read any more on this topic. I can assure you that you do need to know more about this horrible “enterprise,” not only so you’ll understand what’s happening around this tragedy but also to see how it affects your neighbors and might even affect you and your family.
A few years ago I was in your shoes, thinking I knew about human and sexual trafficking. But it was abstract to me, something I saw in the news or read about in the news. I’d seen the Liam Neeson movie, and, of course, that showed it as it is. I thought it didn’t affect me or anyone I might know. I was wrong, and I was lucky.
As a library supervisor, I volunteered to be part of the Duluth Trafficking Awareness Committee when it first formed as part of my job at the Duluth Public Library. I saw this as an important committee the library should be part of, but I didn’t realize my ignorance on the topic, especially related to what was happening in my own backyard.
There were actually young people in my area being trafficked and also wonderful people actively working to help young people get out and recover. Victims usually weren't being kidnapped off the streets but were being lured or tricked into this horror. Any young person is vulnerable.
We all need to educate ourselves. You may be able to understand and help a neighbor or family member, especially during these very stressful times, so they don’t fall victim to a trafficker.
Please check out the many educational programs being offered by the committee. They are listed at facebook.com/duluthmntraffickingawareness. You don’t need a Facebook account to participate. There are programs for young people, for caregivers, for anyone. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to watch the programs with the young people in their lives. Your questions will be answered.
Every year I volunteer to be on this committee and every year I learn more about this difficult topic from the experts in our area. As a Duluth resident, I appreciate the wonderful people at PAVSA and Lifehouse; on the Native reservations; in the police, courts, and social services; and in other organizations who work daily to end human trafficking and help the survivors recover.
We all need to educate ourselves so we can work together to bring an end to this horror.
Renee Zurn of Duluth is a member of the Trafficking Awareness Committee in Duluth and a library supervisor in public computing and circulation services at the Duluth Public Library.