DENVER (KDVR) – According to the ACLU, human trafficking impacts an estimated 12.3 million victims at any one time across the world, and that includes the more than 14,500 estimated victims trafficked into the United States annually.

To support the efforts to combat this illusive scourge on society, Governor Polis recently designated January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Colorado.

The U.S. Department of Defense defines human trafficking as a crime “in which force, fraud or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services or commercial sex.”

Just a few weeks ago in a home located in Bakersfield, California, 16 people who were being held against their will were rescued by California authorities after one captive escaped and pounded a garage door, pleading for help. Couple this with the FBI’s nationwide sex trafficking operation which helped locate and rescue 37 missing children and 141 adults in 2022, and one can see how trafficking continues to be a huge problem.

To help this ongoing crisis, street teams with the state are headed out to raise awareness through the distribution of outreach materials like posters in bars, buses, visitor centers, rest stops and vaccine clinics in order to get help to those facing this kind of oppression.

“From posters to coasters and conversations to formal training, the campaign seeks to share the message that anyone can be a victim, but help is available,” officials said in a statement released on Thursday.

To add to that effort, FOX31 has put together a brief breakdown outlining how to get help as a victim as well as how you can offer help to victims.

Identifying victims of human trafficking

“This experience [human trafficking] is so confusing, and the relationships embedded into it are extremely complicated,” an anonymous human trafficking survivor told state officials. “However, I took one small step, telling someone that something wasn’t right, and from there, my journey and experiences started to change.”

Those who traffick humans exploit vulnerable people who are typically dealing with situations like:

  • Housing insecurity
  • Poverty
  • A general lack of support from family or friends
  • An unstable living environment
  • Addiction to a substance

“Victims/survivors may not understand their circumstance as trafficking or are unsure how to get help,” Program Manager and spokesperson for the Colorado Human Trafficking Council Maria Trujillo said. “Traffickers are often in a close or intimate relationship with those they exploit, making the crime more complex.” 

Local resources for human trafficking victims

If you or someone you know has been a victim of human trafficking, it is important to avoid confronting the trafficker. You must put your safety and the victim’s safety first.

Instead get them in contact with the Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline, which can be reached by dialing (866) 455-5075. You can also send a message to (720) 999-9724 if texting works better for your situation.

If you live outside of the state, you can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by dialing (888)373-7888. Even if it is simply a suspicion, it is better to call than not, because the action could lead to the saving of a life.

The struggle and pain felt as a victim do not ever fully subside. If you or a loved one is a victim and would like to utilize some local resources, Legal Information Network of Colorado has organized a list of local resources that include:

Local victim resources

National victim resources

Additionally, if you want to get involved on a more consistent basis, the Colorado Human Trafficking Council meets on the fourth Friday of each month, which next lands on Jan. 27. It will be held at Sungate Kids, located at 6090 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village.

January coincides with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which was instituted by President Barrack Obama in 2010.

Again, it is important to observe caution when offering support to victims of human trafficking, due to the dangerous situation that surrounds this type of crime.