Imagine a sister, a friend, a loved one – a person who means the world and deserves the world. Really think about their thoughtful eyes and their loving soul. Now imagine that beautiful person being sold, worked, and controlled by a relentless oppressor. Those thoughtful eyes seeing tragedy incomprehensible. That loving soul being broken by hate and indifference.
We have all learned about the history of slavery and how it still stands as one of the darkest times of America’s past. Through learning about slavery, we’ve been told the stories of the Underground Railroad and the bravado of people like Harriet Tubman who faced certain death to rescue and free others. While leading the slaves away from a harsh life of plantations and owners of the South, Underground Railroad conductors like Tubman would use the North Star as their guiding light towards freedom.
Actually comprised of three stars that orbit each other, the North Star, or Polaris, is one of the brightest and easiest stars to spot in the sky. This allowed the slaves to travel by the light of Polaris throughout the nighttime to avoid being seen. While the rest of the universe would rotate and spin, Polaris would always seem to stand still – suspended in the sky like a light tower guiding runaway slaves towards freedom until the abolishment of slavery in 1865.
It is no wonder then why Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman chose the Polaris star as the namesake for their organization that fights human trafficking and modern day slavery. Founded in 2002, the Polaris Project is committed to combating the global problem of human trafficking, in which individuals are exploited and forced into sexual or labor slavery. While students at Brown University, Katherine and Derek read an article about a local massage business that had been uncovered as a disguised brothel. To them, this modern form of slavery needed to be addressed and fought – thus, the Polaris Project was born.
While human trafficking may seem as more of an overseas problem, the reality of it is that it is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the United States. Human trafficking typically involves two types of trafficking: sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Sex trafficking most commonly occurs in the forms of pimp-controlled prostitution, commercial-front brothels often times fronted as massage parlors, and escort services. Labor trafficking most frequently occurs in restaurants, domestic work and sales crews.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), just one of the many initiatives of the Polaris Project, conducted a 5 year study of tips received on their hotline between 2007 and 2012. During that time, the NHTRC dealt with 9,298 unique cases of human trafficking and saw a 259% increase in call volume between 2008 and 2012. This modern-day slave industry is real, both in the United States and abroad, and has no common target. Males, females, adults and children all make up the faces of human trafficking victims and the Polaris Project seeks programming and resources for helping them all.
In their unilateral and comprehensive approach towards ending human trafficking and modern-day slavery, the Polaris Project has set up many initiatives and services to free their clients and prevent others from becoming victims. They offer clinical social services to victims in specialized offices, lobby for political advocacy and legislature on Capital Hill, provide strategic training to local, federal and international audiences on combating human trafficking, operate the 24-hour national hotline to connect victims to services, and have been expanding their US operation to become a global scale project. Their results have been as substantial as their operation.
Since launching the hotline, Polaris Project has connected over 11,000 victims to assistance and has responded to 85,000 calls from ever state and other countries. Their political advocacy effort has lead to the passage of over 100 state laws that address human trafficking. Their Washington DC office has provided shelter to 88 survivors while their New Jersey office has directly supported 76 survivors. The Polaris Project has been the bright, shining star for countless victims and continues to stand strong and gain momentum.
This week, when you partner with Sevenly and shop for a cause, you can help the Polaris Project rescue and save the lives of those affected by human trafficking in the United States all over the globe. Just like the Polaris star guided many to freedom by shining bright and strong, we can help the Polaris Project do just the same for today’s modern-day slaves.