Let’s Collaborate as a Nation to End Human Trafficking

by Stephanie Moyes, Seattle, Washington, King County Department of Community and Human Services

A crime against humanity hidden behind closed doors—human trafficking has long been a social epidemic in America. Washington State, where I live and work in the King County (Seattle) Department of Community and Human Services, is a hotspot for human trafficking due to the large number of agricultural workers in our State and the proximity of an international border, international airports, sea ports, and trains. I am blessed to work in an environment where community leaders and elected officials not only realize that human trafficking is an important issue, but are also willing to take a stand against this heinous crime and declare it a public health issue. It was just ten years ago when Washington State passed one of the Nation’s first laws against human trafficking.

On January 11, 2013, Seattle and King County launched a regional anti-trafficking public awareness campaign to mark National Awareness Day. As part of the core team responsible for developing our campaign, I conducted a national search of municipalities that had produced public awareness campaigns focused on human trafficking. I called the municipalities to learn about challenges they experienced and how they evaluated their campaigns’ effectiveness within their communities. New York City’s campaign, which was designed by Grey Advertising and launched in 2010, really stood out from all the others—strong silhouette images with a simple message about being trafficked.1 I reached out to Norma Abbene, Deputy Counsel to New York City Mayor Bloomberg, to find out more about their campaign and its effectiveness. Further discussions led to New York City and Grey Advertising offering us their campaign images and materials at no cost. The simple gesture of reaching out across the Nation, from the West Coast to the East Coast, evolved into a heartfelt alliance in service of a common cause.

For three months, our anti-trafficking campaign2 was displayed on the outside of 200 metro buses with smaller signage inside the buses. The buses covered 2,134 square miles with a population of over 2 million people. Thirteen billboards were donated and displayed along the Interstate 5 corridor, from Tacoma to the Canadian border. Community partners and service providers applauded the campaign, which led to its expansion into eastern Washington State and the Seattle International Airport. Polaris Project, which operates the national anti-trafficking hotline and is a leading national organization in combating human trafficking, kept data on hotline calls coming in while the campaign was up. The data showed a noticeable increase in call volume, some coming from victims and others from the public wanting to know how they can help.

Given the limited resources available to municipal and State governments fighting human trafficking, it makes sense to collaborate and replicate our proven successful campaign rather than recreating it. The black and white silhouette images created by Grey Advertising should be the universal image for awareness campaigns across the country. The images show the human side of the issue of trafficking, and their simplicity supports diverse publications and easy recognition. Using the same images across America would promote a nationwide campaign that can economically reach millions of people, heighten public awareness of human trafficking, educate communities about the problem, and encourage dialogue about what human trafficking is and what communities can do to stop it. Now is the time to create a unified voice across the Nation by building local campaigns, in cities and towns across the country, around the images successfully used in the New York City and Seattle/King County, Washington, anti-trafficking campaigns.

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  1. Office of the Mayor of the City of New York’s Let’s End Human Trafficking Campaign, available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/endht/html/home/home.shtml

  2. Seattle and King County, Washington, Help Stop Human Trafficking Campaign, available at http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/injury/humantrafficking.aspx; see also King County Leaders Launch New Campaign to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking in King County: Campaign Launch with Bus Ads Starting Friday Marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11, 2013), available at http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/news/release/2013/January/11HumanTrafficking.aspx; C. Clarridge, Ad Campaign Targets Human Trafficking, Sex Exploitation: King County is Launching a Campaign to Raise Awareness About Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation that Includes Ads in Six Languages that Will be Posted on 200 Metro Buses, Seattle Times (January 11, 2013), available at http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020114904_trafficking12m.html