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2023 HT Summit will shed light on darkness of labor trafficking


Suleman Masood's story is unlike most human-trafficking stories that make the news. He wasn’t forced into the sex trade; rather, he was forced to work multiple jobs for as many hours a day as his body could endure.

As a minor and through early adulthood, Masood fell under the thrall of a conman who had ingratiated himself into his family while passing himself off as a government official. For two years, Masood was trafficked throughout California, working 18 hours a day at three jobs, and was subject to both verbal and physical abuse. A co-worker eventually helped him break away.

Masood’s story is different in another respect as well. Labor trafficking tends to be associated with the exploitation of immigrants, but Masood was born in the United States and has U.S. citizenship.

“Labor trafficking can happen to anyone and in multiple forms,” he said. “The same is true for human trafficking in general. We have to get beyond the myths that only certain people are affected by this. We should not be thinking of one demographic, one specific gender, one background. We should really be looking at all the elements and the context in which trafficking occurs, because it changes.”

Masood is chair of the 11-member U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, whose members are appointed by the president to advise and make recommendations on federal anti-human trafficking policies. He will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Human Trafficking Summit on Jan. 26 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

He will explain what labor trafficking looks like, who it affects, what types of industries tend to be involved, and what systems are in place to assist victims and survivors.

Now in its fourth year, the summit brings together survivors, social workers and victim advocates, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and other community stakeholders to learn how different areas of the state are succeeding in the fight against trafficking. It also serves to inspire and motivate participants to help fill regional gaps in services.

This year’s summit is in person but also includes an option to attend virtually. To learn more about the workshops offered, visit