If You See Something, Say Something!
This is the slogan of the nonprofit group Truckers Against Trafficking, the organization’s main goal is to have more and more truck drivers involved in the initiative to fight sex trafficking.
Kendis Paris, the chairwoman of Truckers Against Trafficking, has made the initiative her main priority including a National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) with a 24-hour anonymous hotline ready to take truck drivers’ calls.
Why should truck drivers get involved?
For all the logical reasons – truck drivers see and hear a lot of “things” on the road, a big portion of the sex trafficking and involuntary prostitution happens on truck stops, which makes truck drivers witnesses of quite a few unlawful activities. If you were to see a 14/15-year-old girl going around in the middle of the night, knocking on trucks’ doors – what would you do? The only human thing to do is to report the event and help those girls.
This is exactly what the truck driver – Willis Wolfswinkel did on that occasion, he called 911 and saved the lives of two underaged girls that were kidnapped from Toledo a few months before that.
Under federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. (ref. Polaris Project)
Sex trafficking very often occurs at truck stops and travel plazas, in different forms, such as pimp control zones and brothels acting as massage parlors. It makes sense for the sex trafficking industry to be flourishing around those places, given how geographically detached they are and that the customer base for those places happens to be predominantly male.
Having a victim that is physically and emotionally exploited and abused, makes it easier for offenders to control them relying on the fact that their fear will keep their mouths shut.
Truckers Against Trafficking has been attacking the problem by distributing “wallet cards” to truckers that include human trafficking indicators and the National Human Trafficking Hotline phone and text number. They have also developed training videos and human trafficking training materials on how to recognize a problem.
There has been an increased number of calls from truck drivers reporting human/sex trafficking, hence an increased number of girls and boys have been saved thanks to the efforts of Truckers Against Trafficking, NHTRC, and different state police divisions that have been joining the initiative.
The main goal of the Truckers Against Trafficking organization is to train more and more truck drivers, as well as gas stations, truck stops, and plaza’s employees on how to recognize a case of human trafficking, what questions to ask, how to handle the situation and who to call.
Here are some statistics from www.traffickingresourcecenter.org, of what has been happening in the United States during 2019:
- NHTRC received 11,500 sex trafficking cases, out of 48,326 signals of human trafficking
- 19% of all signals came from truckers
- Number of adult cases – 6,684
- Number of minors being trafficked – 2,582
- Females – 9, 357; males – 1304; gender minorities – 99
- US Citizens/Permanent Residents – 1,098
- Foreign Nationals – 1,417
Location of Potential Trafficking cases (where known):
Identifying human trafficking cases
It is alarming and a bit disappointing that today, an educated and civilized society has to discuss how to fight and put an end to “a modern type of slavery”, aka Human/Sex Trafficking. This is one of the many reasons why we should get involved on every level as much as possible, especially people who see this on a daily basis, i.e. truckers.
There are four main categories that can help you detect if something is wrong:
- Common work and living conditions
- Poor mental health or abnormal behavior
- Poor physical health
- Lack of control
Each category includes a number of factors that you can look for and/or ask. To find out more, please, go to Polaris Project. As you can see from the data listed above, there is no profile set on who can be a victim of human/sex trafficking.
According to the U.S. Federal Law, trafficked persons in the U.S. can be men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. Victims can come from any level in society, with or without education, with or without a home. The main thing that all victims seem to have in common is a certain level of vulnerability, which is what allows the trafficker to be in control.
If you know someone that might be a victim of human trafficking or if you suspect that someone is in this situation, regardless of whether you are a truck driver or not, please contact the hotline for human trafficking at 1-888-373-7888 or text to BeFree (233 733).
And don’t forget that big changes come from a lot of little actions put together. You can always take ACTION to change things….. for the better!