Humans of The Anti-Trafficking Movement - Part 5
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month; an opportunity to educate the community about human trafficking and empower them to take action to help survivors and work to eradicate the scourge of modern-day slavery.
The #HumansofTheAntiTraffickingMovement campaign highlights individuals throughout the Chicagoland area and their direct or indirect experience with human trafficking. We will share these stories and facts with you throughout the month. You can follow #HumansofTheAntiTraffickingMovement on the STOP-IT Facebook page and on The Salvation Army Metro Division's Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn channels.
The Sales Rep
"We've had people come in looking for prepaid phones. Our procedure is that we have to run your credit if you want to buy a phone and the people who come in usually want to pay cash. We have had people come in who are very open about how they have these girls working for them. Most of the women that they have brought in appear to be consenting, not necessarily because they have been forced." - Gina, Sprint Sales Representative
Phones are often used in situations of sex trafficking to conduct day-to-day operations and to keep tabs on the people being victimized. Though the general public often thinks that survivors will self-identify or present as fearful in situations where they are being victimized, we know that survivors may have developed trauma bonds with their traffickers and present as willing participants to people they encounter.
In addition, the sale of sexual services on social media on phones is more common now than ever before. For example, within escort services, captions are tacked under explicit photos or live-streams. Information about prices, location or contact information is threaded into comment sections. Sometimes the advertisements are on the traffickers' personal accounts but often survivors are forced to own the actual posting, using an account under their name. in Polaris's survivor survey, 26 percent of participants stated their trafficker exploited them via their own personal social media accounts. Technology, like phones and the internet, can often facilitate these activities. They can also be a place for survivors to reach out for help.
"I would be lying if over the past 11 years I didn't say i have suspected a patient or two being a victim. As a nurse, you have a lot of interaction with the patients and you inevitably come to know them as a person. It is hard, though, because you generally ask basic questions like 'How are you feeling?' and 'What brings you in today?' We are taught to be observant in mannerisms and body language as well. So at times you can tell if someone just isn't being their normal self. However, unless the patient verbally states they are in trouble or unsafe it becomes difficult to assess what is truly going on with them. I have suspected but have never been able to confirm a patient being a victim." - Elizabeth, Nurse
Healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to identify situations of human trafficking. However, 57 percent of survivors in Polaris's 2018 survey reported never being asked trafficking or abuse assessment questions during any health care visit. Survivors may come to the hospital for a range of health concerns, including sexual and reproductive health issues, mental health concerns, on-the-job injuries caused by unsafe working conditions, issues related to substance use and injuries sustained by violence on the part of traffickers. It is for this very reason that nurses, doctors and other practitioners should aim to create safe, nonjudgmental spaces to screen for trafficking indicators if and when they have a moment with the individual alone.
The Truck Driver
"I believe trafficking happens quite a lot actually, though I've never personally seen it myself. I have heard many stories from other drivers who have experienced it. When I first started off, I had to go through many training sessions and they did mention human trafficking. They mentioned that drivers are most vulnerable to become buyers because they are on the road for many hours, days and even weeks. So, the trainers and the company put a lot of emphasis on not picking up hitchhikers or buying sex from people who are at truck stops. I do think that not all truck drivers know what to do if they identify a victim so having a formal training on what it is and what to do when someone comes up to us in important." - Jesus, Truck Driver
According to the National Hotline, sex trafficking can be present at commercially-operated truck stops as well as state-operated rest areas and welcome centers due to their remote locations and the male-dominant customer base that uses the facilities. Potential sex-trafficking victims are coerced by their traffickers to solicit customers by means of advertising over CB radio, knocking on truck cab doors, walking up and down the tarmac or directly approaching and offering services.
Organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) work with the trucking industry to educate and equip their members. They have produced curriculum and palm cards for truckers to they can effectively identify and report instances of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The International Government Official
"We see situations where people from different states come to our consulate, cases of unaccompanied minors for example, cases of families who have not been reunified, or cases where the parents are in Guatemala and their children are here in the United States being taken care of by third-party people. In some cases, we have been able to identify human trafficking. Here in our location, we do see teenagers, small children, boys and girls, who are accompanied by others who are not their parents to help them get a passport or a consular card. Both parents need to give consent for us to submit documents for the children to receive their passports or other legal documents. But nevertheless, those who are taking care of these children demand and try to force themselves on us to be able to have these documents submitted without the consent of their parents. If we see a child is being brought by someone other than their parents, who looks to be intimidated by this individual, we might suspect something. We carefully plan out how to adequately interview this person alone without raising alarms." - Billy Munoz, Guatemalan Consul General, Chicago
Human trafficking impacts people from all over the world, including Guatemala. In Ohio, a group of unaccompanied Guatemalan teens were smuggled into the country and forced to work long hours in filthy conditions at area chicken farms. They lived in squalid trailers and had a significant portion of their paychecks directed to the individuals who arranged the trips and jobs. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Guatemalan survivors have also been identified int eh landscaping industry, in the forestry industry, and in construction. Consulates and embassies can be a critical place for identification and intervention.
The Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program helps survivors of human trafficking leave their situation and start a new life with services and referrals; regardless of age, race, nationality, gender, immigration status or sexual orientation in Cook County and the nine collar counties in Illinois. In addition to one-on-one case management, STOP-IT operates a drop-in center and staffs a 24-hour hotline for crisis intervention. Survivors, service providers, first responders, and community members can contact 877.606.3158 to safety plan, receive technical assistance, make referrals, or access any of the above services.