It's a growing problem that affects up to 20 million people worldwide and thousands right here in New Jersey; human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Awareness (Uriel Sinai, Getty Images)

Lawmakers, survivors and many other organizations from across the state will take to the steps of the Statehouse today for the first-ever Human Trafficking Awareness Day Rally.

"One of our best defenses against this modern day slavery is awareness," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. "This trade thrives in the shadows, unbeknownst to many, in neighborhoods and businesses right in our own backyards. In addition to toughening our law enforcement approach, we need to educate everyone in order to help rescue the innocent victims of human trafficking, many of whom are women and children. It affects millions worldwide and thousands right here in the Garden State and there could be many more. Unfortunately, we don't have the true statistics because they are afraid to come forward."

Prevention, Treatment can follow with Awareness

"By raising awareness and getting the message out there that this is, in fact, happening right in our own backyards, prevention and treatment can follow," said Vainieri Huttle. "We are not going to tolerate it and this is the first step to shine a spotlight on it, unfortunately, as it does happen in New Jersey."

"This is a chance for all of us to stand together in one single voice and tell perpetrators that we are not going to tolerate it anymore," said Senator Nellie Pou. "Equally important, it's an opportunity for us to show our support for victims and survivors of human trafficking and to learn from their experiences so we can better target our resources to crack down on this problem."

Vainieri Huttle has worked closely with the coalition on pending legislation to help eradicate what many consider to be a modern form of slavery. She's also worked on a resolution that would compliment the federal law by designating January 11 of every year as "Human Trafficking Awareness Day" in New Jersey.

About NJ's Human Trafficking Awareness Rally

The rally will kick off at 11:00. Afterwards, the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the State Attorney General's Office will co-sponsor the Third Annual National Human Trafficking Awareness Program in Committee Room 4 of the Statehouse Annex. Speakers will include Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, special agents from the FBI and other human trafficking experts who will detail case studies, survivor stories and efforts to combat the problem.

"Human trafficking must be eradicated. We can start right here in New Jersey and the first step is to raise awareness. The Coalition, working with dozens of groups across the state, has begun the arduous task of making sure New Jersey is at the forefront of combating this treacherous epidemic. Our Human Trafficking Awareness Day program will serve as notice to every citizen that we intend to end modern day slavery in New Jersey," said Melanie Roth Gorelick, Facilitator of the Coalition and Director of the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

"Awareness is vitally important, but education without action is only half of the solution. Attendees will gain concrete action items and learn how to add their voice to the collective outcry against human trafficking," said Patricia Devine Harms, emcee of the rally and member of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Chair of the Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee.