Last month, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“Kansas was founded on the conviction that every life has dignity. Today, human trafficking is an affront on that dignity, depriving victims of their freedom and human rights,” Brownback said. “Kansas will continue its efforts to end this form of modern-day slavery.”

Many do not associate human trafficking with rural America. However, there are domestic dangers to be aware of, as well as the foreign dangers typically associated with this type of crime.

“Human trafficking has touched Cowley County. The incidents I’m familiar have involved teenage girls,” said Cowley County Attorney Larry Schwartz. “The victims are promised a great life, freedom from school and parents, and lots of money. Tragically, all they really get is a life of forced labor in stores, agriculture or prostitution and pornography.”

Human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest-growing criminal industries in the world. It is defined as recruiting, harboring and transporting people for the purpose of exploitation.

Both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occur in Kansas, and both adults and children are victims. Kansas’ location and interstate system make it a major transportation area for victims of human trafficking, according to a recent news release from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.

One scenario in which unwilling individuals can become entrapped by predators is through kidnapping. Other situations are presented as “businesses.”

In some situations, the victim can be sold into businesses by parents or a spouse due to family money problems.

The family is promised a percentage of profit for the work of the victim for any amount of time, or until a debt is paid.

“Recruiting isn’t always by a stranger. The incidents I’m familiar with involved friends recruiting friends who are in a vulnerable situation, or maybe having problems in school or at home,” Schwartz said.

But there are ways to safeguard loved ones. “Protect your children by knowing their friends,” Schwartz suggests.

“Make sure you know where they will be and who they will be with. Know which social media your child is involved in, and their friends on social media.”

Being alone can make someone a target.

“Talk to your children about human trafficking and explain to them not all people can be trusted,” Schwartz said.

“However, explain in such a way as to not make them fearful of all people and life in general. Sometimes children do not appreciate these rules, but it’s important to be the parent.”

15 ways to fight human trafficking

The U.S. Department of State has released these 15 ways to help to fight human trafficking:

  1. Learn the indicators of human trafficking so you can help to identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement officials, educators and federal employees, among others.
  2. If you are in the United States and suspect someone might be a victim of human trafficking, report those suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at (888) 373-7888. Trafficking victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
  3. Be a conscientious and informed consumer. Discover your “slavery footprint,” ask who picked your tomatoes or made your clothes, or check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies to take steps to investigate and prevent human trafficking in their supply chains, and publish the information for consumer awareness.
  4. Volunteer for and support anti-trafficking efforts in the community.
  5. Meet with or write to local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know you care about combating human trafficking and ask what they are doing to address it.
  6. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss films about human trafficking. For example, learn how modern slavery exists today, watch an investigative documentary about sex trafficking or discover how human trafficking can affect global food supply chains. Also, check out CNN’s Freedom Project for more stories on the different forms of human trafficking around the world.
  7. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
  8. Encourage local schools to partner with students and include modern slavery in their curricula. As a parent, educator or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.
  9. Be well informed. Set up a web alert to receive current human trafficking news. Become familiar with public awareness materials available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  10. Work with a local religious community or congregation to help to stop trafficking by supporting a victim service provider or spreading awareness of human trafficking.
  11. Businesses: Provide jobs, internships, skills training and other opportunities to trafficking survivors.
  12. Students: Take action on campus. Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout the local community. Consider writing a research paper on a topic concerning human trafficking. Request that human trafficking be included in university curricula.
  13. Health Care Providers: Learn how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims. With assistance from anti-trafficking organizations, extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims.
  14. Journalists: The media plays an enormous role in shaping perceptions and guiding public conversation about human trafficking. Here are some media best practices on how to report stories on human trafficking effectively and responsibly.
  15. Attorneys: Offer human trafficking victims free or low-cost legal services, including support for those seeking benefits or special visas. Resources are available for attorneys representing victims of human trafficking.

For more information on human trafficking, visit