Social media can be an amazing tool for increasing awareness and engaging supporters. It can also be a hub for misinformation. Recently, I’ve noticed an increase in social posts regarding human trafficking. One would think this is good news as human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery and needs to end. But so much of the information is wrong or in the case of recent days, is perpetuating a conspiracy theory that has accused high profile persons of being involved with pedophilia and sex trafficking.
The onslaught of social media posts is overwhelming not only in the blatantly ridiculous accusations, but perhaps most disturbing, in the amount of people believing and sharing these theories. Agencies have worked hard over the years to dispel myths regarding human trafficking, and many are finding themselves having to spend their time correcting misinformation instead of spending their time saving and supporting the victims of human trafficking.
But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I have seen people legitimately concerned about this issue because they feel that not enough is being done to stop it. Having been in the nonprofit field for so many years, I know this is not the case.
One of the agencies working tirelessly to end human trafficking in all its forms is the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. The YWCA is the lead agency on the Pennsylvania Alliance Against Trafficking in Humans, Route 15, or PAATH 15. This collaborative effort, led by the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, is connecting five rape crisis centers, four human trafficking response teams and additional resources along the 12-county, 8,400-square mile Route 15 corridor from the New York to Maryland state lines.
PAATH 15 provides services to survivors and educates and trains the public, police departments and employees in specific industries to identify potential victims. Primarily funded by federal grants, the PAATH 15 program has become a model for other programs across the country.
YWCA of Greater Harrisburg representatives have traveled throughout the country advising other federally funded programs on the PAATH 15 model of services. Due to the increased awareness and training, there has been a 200-percent jump in the identification of human trafficking victims within the 12-county region, resulting in more than 300 victims receiving services since 2014.
For more information about PAATH 15, follow their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PAAgainstTraffickinginHumans/.