OK, so by now we know that human trafficking in general, and the selling of children for sex (referred to in law enforcement as Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, or CSEC) in specific, are happening in communities all over the US. We know that there is an entire industry on the “dark net” on which children are bought and sold for sex. We know that mothers who are drug addicted pay dealers for drugs by “loaning” or selling outright, their children for sex. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heinous. We’re aware. Now, what can we do??
Most people hear about these terrible things, and would do something if they could, but they don’t know what to do. This month’s article is about the resources that are available to all of us, free of charge. We can use these resources to educate and empower ourselves, our families, our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We can work with management to organize a lunch-n-learn at our company. We can collaborate with local ministries to put on educational events. (If we can’t talk about these things in church, and ignite church- goers to stop this heinous crime, where should we talk about these things?!) We can email copies of this article or links for resources to people involved with Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and other youth-related organizations. We can put “trafficking indicators” under our email signature lines.
Human trafficking is a hidden crime, so the first step to combating it is to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, so they can be rescued. I get that we aren’t all cut out for leading the charge against trafficking in our communities, but every one of us can learn and pass on indicators that help educate people who might just be the person who sees something and makes an anonymous phone call that saves a trafficked child’s life. If you think I’m being overly dramatic, consider that the average life span of a trafficked child is 7 years. Consider also that the average age of a trafficked child is 12.
Possible Indicators of Trafficking
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.
While not an exhaustive list, these are some red flags that could mean a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Living with multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and trading sex for rent
What Do You Do?
If you see someone who you think may be trafficked, do not at any time attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Your safety as well as the victim’s safety is paramount.
If you have the opportunity to speak privately with someone you suspect may be a victim, be aware that the trafficker could be watching. Be careful not to jeopardize the victim’s safety. Assuming it is safe to do so, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:
- Can you leave if you wanted to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Do you have your own money?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport or identification? Who has it?
If you’re unable to safely ask questions or the answers would indicate that intervention is necessary, contact local law enforcement directly or call the tip lines below:
- Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423); outside the US call 802-872-6199.
- Submit a tip at www.ice.gov/tips.
- To get help for victims, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) by calling 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). The NHTRC can help connect victims with service providers in the area and provides training, technical assistance, and other resources. The NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.
- 911 Emergency. For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911.
For materials, trainings, and videos from the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign, click here or copy and paste this into your browser:
For online awareness training for:
- groups or individuals, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/awarenesstraining
- first responders in your community, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: www.dhs.gov/video/human-trafficking- awareness-video-first-responders
- educators in your community, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: https://www.dhs.gov/video/human-traf- ficking-awareness-video-first-responders
- for a Spanish translation of resources, click here or paste this into your browser: www.state.gov/documents/organization/25 2544.pdf
For specific resources for educators, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/blue- campaign-training-materials
Together, we can identify and help save the trafficking victims who are all around us.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of the new book Successful Survivors: The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.