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Important focus in Suffolk

Human trafficking is one of those issues that sounds very far away — until it’s suddenly not.

Human trafficking exploits 24.9 million people around the world, coercing victims into forced labor or sex work.

Several myths about human trafficking exist. The biggest one is that human trafficking doesn’t exist in the United States, or happens only in big cities. The truth is that it can and does happen anywhere, including right here in Suffolk.

In addition, human trafficking isn’t just forced sex work. Forced labor is another type and can happen in industries such as sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and domestic service, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Anyone can be a victim of trafficking, but traffickers do look for people who are susceptible due to youth or naiveté, psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, a language barrier, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters or political instability.

Indeed, human trafficking is an issue that requires the attention of the entire world, and all of us should sit up and take notice.

In Suffolk, we are fortunate to have an organization that is working to help formerly trafficked women overcome the trauma they’ve suffered, access treatment and educational resources, gain job skills and find their purpose.

Angel’s Hands at the Ranch was founded by Dana Wynn Steele, an attorney who has worked with trafficking victims. She currently has six women living at the ranch in Suffolk as well as several rescued animals who play a role in the therapy program for the women.

Suffolk also is fortunate to have an organization that is bringing attention to this important issue. Steele spoke at Monday’s meeting of the Junto Woman’s Club, which has formed a task force to partner with other regional organizations and educational programs to put the spotlight on this issue.

We thank Angel’s Hands at the Ranch and the Junto Woman’s Club for their important work and encourage all Suffolk residents not to turn a blind eye to this issue.