Hope is an essential emotion that carries us through the darkest of trials. It leads us to find joy in any experience. And a lifetime of joy leads us to an eternity of happiness. One may ask, “How can you start a blog about human trafficking with words of hope and joy?” The reason is because of people like Janice Kennah, Opal Singleton, law enforcement agencies, and victims who overcome the darkness of their experiences as a human that has been sold. They are able to continue this work of deliverance because of the hope they hold on to in saving a life and the joy they experience in setting them free.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. This happens to millions of men, women, and children worldwide, including the United States. There is no preference for age, race, gender, or nationality. It is the ugliest of atrocities, second only to outright murder. A victim of human trafficking can expect a life of fear, violence, manipulation and false promises.
Local advocate, Janice Kennah, is involved with Million Kids, a nonprofit organization committed to ending human trafficking domestically. I asked for her perspective on the issue.
How did you get involved with fighting against human trafficking? Kennah: “I was out walking near the butte when I came across a video on www.MillionKids.org. It stopped me in my tracks. I was appalled at the statistics she gave there. In the video, Opal Singleton, CEO of Million Kids, stated that “72% of children trafficked are U.S. Citizens.” Her words sparked in me a desire to help. So, I contacted them and requested to have Opal come talk to our community here in the Bridger Valley. To help cover the cost of Opal’s flight and stay, I petitioned the local businesses for help and received an outpouring of donations. As I recall, Union was very generous.”
How to Spot Human Trafficking
How can the everyday person make a difference? Kennah: “Pay attention to what your children are doing, especially on their electronic devices. So many of them are taken via social media apps and games. The predators don’t need to chat with them for very long. Just a few minutes of interaction will give them the exact GPS coordinates of their prey. Not too long ago, a young girl snuck out of her house to meet a boy. The boy turned out to be a man and a young lady who took her away and murdered her. There are many stories out there with similar tragedies.” (Click here for that story.)
Human trafficking is a growing form of modern-day slavery. It is not regulated to the poverty-stricken but is a plague among all classes. With over 46 million people suspect of being a victim of slave trafficking, the odds are you have known, currently know, or will encounter someone in this terrible state. Learning to recognize key indicators of human trafficking can help save a life.
Here are some common indicators from the Blue Campaign, a division under Homeland Security, which is dedicated to fighting 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?
To print out a free indicator card, go here.
So why should people care? Kennah: “How could they not! These are human beings. This isn’t a crime being committed by non-US citizens to non-US citizens, either. I once spoke with a gas station attendant just over in a nearby town. They said human trafficking is a common occurrence there. I also know that law enforcement and ports of entry are diligent in watching for any rolling human trafficking occurrences.”
You or your organization can spread the word in several ways. Blue Campaign suggests the following to raise awareness of the crime in your community.
- Share Blue Campaign materials online or in your headquarters, facilities, or affiliate organizations.
- Engage with us on social media. You can follow Blue Campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Retweet and share posts to reach your community with human trafficking awareness messages.
- Educate your staff, stakeholders, and communities by using Blue Campaign resources to conduct human trafficking training.
- Reach out to the DHS Speakers Bureau to request a DHS expert to speak at upcoming annual conferences, webinars, industry meetings, and other events.
If you are more interested in working through Million Kids or donating to their cause, go here.
What would you say to a victim of human trafficking? Kennah: “You are needed. You matter and are worthy of love and every good thing despite what your captor has told you, despite all that you have endured. What has happened to you is in no way your fault.”
At some point, this article will reach someone who is a victim of slave trafficking or knows or suspects someone of being trafficked. The first thing to do is get help. Calling 911 remains the first resource for anyone in need. You can also call the toll-free Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line at (866) 347-2423. If you have access to a computer, you can also go here to fill out the HSI Tip Form.
It will be through the continued efforts of all to eradicate the atrocity of human trafficking in our nation. At the heart of the issue are individuals who see people as objects. The buying of a person begins when men and women do not control their carnal appetites. These narcissistic individuals are often addicted to various substances, including pornographic material. They reason through the transaction in order to justify their sordid actions. If you or someone you know is struggling with these addictions, get help. As for the rest of us, the protectors and the victims, we cannot hide, we cannot forget, and we cannot give up hope.
Final Notes: Local Area Stats
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the numbers from 2007 to present, the local stats for human trafficking in our tri-state area are as follows:
Total Contacts: 311
Total Cases: 65
Total Victims - Moderate: 87
Total Victims - High: 117
Total Contacts: 1,034
Total Cases: 243
Total Victims - Moderate: 291
Total Victims - High: 181
Total Contacts: 3,207
Total Cases: 751
Total Victims - Moderate: 1,007
Total Victims - High: 408
Links to Visit:
1. Daughters for Sale: How Young American Girls Are Being Sold Online https://abcnews.go.com/US/daughters-sale-young-american-girls-sold-online/story?id=39350838
2. Million Kids Organization www.MillionKids.org
3. 48 Hours: Killer App www.cbsnews.com/news/nicole-lovell-murder-killer-app-smartphone-stranger-danger/
Contributed by Angélica Mecham