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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Installation commander signs proclamation

Col. Chad Ellsworth, installation commander, prepares to sign a National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention proclamation at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Jan. 6, while Jersouk Touy, from left, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office program manager, Rachel Desharanais and Tech. Sgt. Jessica Subia, both Hanscom victim advocates, stand by. January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  

The intent is to draw attention to the forms of slavery that exist in the modern era and raise awareness on how community members can take action in preventing and ending the epidemic of human trafficking.

“A victim could be an immigrant chasing the American dream, or an aspiring model here from overseas,” said Jersouk Touy, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office program manager at Hanscom AFB. “They’re just looking to start a new life but then their passport is stolen, and now they’re trapped in forced labor or sex trafficking with no way out.”

People at a higher risk of trafficking include those new to the country or area, those who don’t speak the language and at-risk youth or children with unstable home lives, said Touy.

“It’s no different than sexual assault,” she said. “These pimps are predators, and they’ll pick out the most vulnerable people to prey upon.”

Indicators of human trafficking can include children who have stopped attending school or are traveling alone, persons with bruises in various stages of healing or showing signs of having been denied food and water, and persons who lack personal possessions.

Personnel can report tips to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

“If you see something that looks off, call the hotline,” said Rachel Desharnais, installation victim advocate. “There’s no harm in calling anonymously and, if you’re right, you could save someone’s life.”

Col. Chad Ellsworth, installation commander, urges all members of the military community to educate themselves on the practices of modern slavery along with the signs and consequences of the crime.

“Together, we can end the most serious, ongoing criminal civil rights violation,” he said.