How to help victims of sex trafficking start new lives

About 4.8 million people worldwide -- roughly the population of Ireland -- became victims of sex trafficking in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization.

(CNN) — About 4.8 million people worldwide — roughly the population of Ireland — became victims of sex trafficking in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization.

Sex trafficking is commercial sex induced by force, fraud or coercion or performed by a minor.

Though US figures can be hard to pin down, 7,255 sex trafficking victims were identified in 2017 by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Countless victims simply can’t reach out. But you can help.

Help victims escape

Learn to recognize the signs of trafficking. If you suspect someone is a victim, call 1-888-373-7888 or text “help” to BeFree, 233733. This call center is operated by the nonprofit Polaris and provides immediate support and local and national resources, 24 hours a day. You can submit anonymous tips online here.

Aid their transition to a new life

When victims can escape a trafficker, they don’t have many options. Some only have their clothes and limited job skills. They often lack social or family support and have nowhere to go.

Compounding that, experience in the commercial sex industry leaves some victims with alcohol and drug addictions and some with criminal records.

These organizations can help provide a path forward:

• Wellspring Living provides a safe house, education and therapy for underage victims in Atlanta, a major hub for US sex trafficking. It also offers an independent living program with education and job training for women.

• 4Sarah is an intervention program in Conyers, Georgia that reaches out to women working in strip clubs and informs them about the dangers of sex trafficking. It also provides emergency housing, transportation and scholarships for women seeking to leave the sex industry.

• GenerateHope offers a safe place in San Diego for survivors of sex trafficking to heal and build new lives. The group provides long-term housing, therapy, education and medical care.

• Free Our Girls helps at-risk and exploited girls and women in northern Colorado by providing outreach, care packages, referral services and job training.

• Safe Horizon is based in New York City and provides housing, counseling, legal services, education and job training. The organization also has a 24-hour hotline.

• Not For Sale in San Francisco provides shelter and education and partners with businesses to find jobs for victims. It also operates in Europe, South America and Asia.

• Polaris, in the Washington area, operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which helps survivors get connected to emergency housing, transportation and legal advocacy, throughout the United States. The Hotline is also connected to organizations that can provide clothing, food, therapy and job placement help where resources are available

Polaris also maintains the online National Human Trafficking Referral Directory. It’s searchable by city, state or ZIP code for emergency, transitional and long-term services across the United States.

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