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The Hidden Crisis: Human trafficking stats will shock you

The latest stats are shocking. More than 12 million people are victims of human trafficking. But that number is thought to be just a portion of it.

The reality is most offenses go unreported and unnoticed. Children, people from broken homes or foster care, and those that are financially unstable are the highest targeted demographics, but they’re not the only ones in danger.

The headlines are shocking. Children taken, used and abused, for sex. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, and it’s getting worse!

The Polaris Project reported there was at least a 40% increase in crisis trafficking cases since the shelter-in-place orders began for COVID-19. Crisis cases are those in which some assistance -- such as shelter, transportation, or law enforcement involvement -- is needed within 24 hours, Polaris explained.

“We didn’t receive more calls or cases on a whole during that month, but instead saw a change in the types of requests we were receiving,” Polaris said.

Here’s how you can recognize it, stop it, and help others.

The three pillars that define trafficking are force, fraud, and coercion.

Red flag No. 1: force. If anyone does anything to make you uncomfortable, ever. You have a right to protect yourself.

Red flag No. 2: fraud. Always be cautious of everyone. Even if they are your partner. Be aware of signs like having a job no one can visit, frequently leaving town, or multiple phones.

Red flag No. 3: coercion. If someone is pushing your boundaries ever, remember trafficking is gradual and happens little by little. Always have a safety plan in place. Advocates are always ready and want to help you. To call for help, dial 1-888-373-7888.

It’s important to emphasize that human trafficking and modern slavery is a hidden crisis. You cannot spot it in plain sight. There is no one look to a trafficker.

Be on the watch for unsettling patterns like pushing boundaries, secrecy and control. If you see something, don’t be afraid to say something. You can also text the national hotline with a tip to 233733. Tips can always be anonymous. You can find out more about this issue at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

Clarification:A previous version of this article did not indicate the specific type of trafficking cases that had increased, according to The Polaris Project.