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When you think of the word “slavery,” it’s likely that you immediately think of the past—deeply woven into the fibers of the history of human civilization, but hardly a present-day reality.

The harsh reality is that slavery hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, across the world today, there are an estimated 40 million victims of human trafficking, or modern day slavery. These individuals essentially have their lives and freedom seized from them; forced into a world in which they are exploited and abused—with little to no hope for escape. Human trafficking is a booming business, bringing in profits in the hundreds of billions worldwide each year.

Although the immediate connotation with human trafficking is prostitution, it can encompass any form of forced labor for slavery, debt bondage, sexual exploitation or servitude. Numerous nonprofits, alliances and organizations have been created in an effort to spread awareness regarding human trafficking and how today’s civilians can help bring an end to this crime. One of these organizations is Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT).

Founded in 2009, TAT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that exists to rally the trucking and busing industry to fight human trafficking. TAT provides training and tools to help industry personnel identify and safely report suspected instances of trafficking.

Truckers are the eyes and ears of America’s highways, with an insider’s glimpse at the day-to-day happenings on the road. With their widespread presence and reach, they are better able to identify those who seek to exploit highways for the purpose of transporting trafficking victims than anyone else. Since TAT was founded, truck drivers have helped identify over 570 likely human trafficking cases and made over 2,100 calls to the national hotline, helping to recover more than 1,050 victims. Over 573,000 individuals have taken and passed TAT’s certification course, which consists of a training video and a short quiz that tests individuals on their knowledge of human trafficking and how they can play a role in combatting the crime.

Co-Founder and Executive Director of TAT Kendis Paris believes that there has been a lot of progress made as far as human trafficking prevention and awareness goes—but knows that there is still plenty more opportunity to spread the word and encourage activism.

“TAT began as an initiative in 2009, and from then until now it’s pretty amazing how much media, legislator and general public knowledge about the crime of human trafficking has increased,” she said. “There’s still a ways to go—but comparatively, the general awareness has grown by leaps and bounds. That does enable us to progress.”

Thanks to the tireless efforts of organizations such as TAT, lawmakers are standing up and paying attention to human trafficking. While all 50 states currently have a law criminalizing sex trafficking, there are eight states that have taken it a step further in order to mandate that their CDL holders are trained in human trafficking awareness and prevention. These states include Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Arkansas.

If a driver ever finds themselves witnessing a situation in which they suspect trafficking to be taking place, Paris encourages them to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.

“Please go ahead and call it if you believe that this individual is in a dangerous situation or needs help. You can remain anonymous and confidential. If you’re wrong, it’s 10 minutes out of your life. But what if you’re right? Take the time to make the call—you never know what that call could do.”

Paris says that the heroic efforts of drivers who have called the hotline to save lives is what fulfills TAT’s mission and what helps the organization continue its crusade forward.

“The success stories are what keep us all going. Each time we hear about a driver who has made a difference at a truck stop, hotel or rest area… if that driver has taken a second look and called the hotline or law enforcement, that’s our greatest accomplishment and that’s why we do everything we do. That’s what it’s always been for us, and what it always will be. For us, it comes down to the driver and making the call. It’s so encouraging to work with them, get to know them and see their heart… and then to see them make a difference.”

For more information on TAT, the Industry Training Program, human trafficking training CDL requirements, and what you can do to help stop human trafficking, visit truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

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