January 13, 2016 - 8:30am
Human trafficking is the illegal trade or use of a person against their will for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. To recognize law enforcement’s battle against human traffickers and to draw attention to the plight of trafficking victims, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Victims of human trafficking can be subjected to a variety of conditions. Sometimes they’re forced into prostitution. Other times they’re subjected to unusually long hours of labor at drastically substandard wages or for no pay at all. They are often fearful, anxious and submissive.
“Modern day slavery can take many forms including forced labor, sex trafficking and involuntary domestic servitude,” OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin said. “Millions of men, women and children are victims of human trafficking throughout the world, making it the second largest criminal activity in the world. And New York is not immune. ”
Human trafficking is defined as the illegal trade or use of a person against their will for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Traffickers prey on the vulnerable and then coerce them into service using a variety of unscrupulous techniques to maintain control. For this reason, trafficking cases often go unreported. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that nearly 18,000 people are brought into the United States annually and then held against their will by traffickers.
Last fall, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a bill that eliminated the requirement that coercion be proven in a sex trafficking prosecution when the victims are minors, increased penalties for traffickers, and created an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was a trafficking victim. The new law also makes it easier for victims of human trafficking to receive support services.
To recognize law enforcement’s battle against human traffickers and to draw attention to the plight of trafficking victims, Governor Cuomo also has proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“Throughout January, we will illuminate the subject, welcome discussion and outreach through all corners of our state to support and serve victims and energize our prosecutorial agencies and law enforcement offices to make New York a place where traffickers know they will not succeed at their practice, circumvent our criminal justice system or ignore basic human rights,” the Governor said in his proclamation.
For victims of trafficking, help is available from New York State through OVS and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The state’s Office of Children and Family Services also offers resources for professionals who work with children who may be victimized: