If you have turned your television on in the past year, you have undoubtedly heard the words sex trafficking used. It has become a hot topic as of late, especially with the immigration issues at the border. It can be challenging to wrap your head around all the implications of what it means to be trafficked, and false stories on social media often do more harm than good in bringing awareness to this very real and massive issue in our country.
The good news is you don't have to work for an anti-trafficking organization or be in law enforcement to make a difference in this arena. In fact, the best way to end the victimization of thousands of individuals here in the United States alone is simply to pay attention and if you see something that doesn't seem right, report it.
Here is the number to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Put it in your phone, so you can quickly access it if the need arises.
National Human Trafficking Hotline— 1-888-373-7888 or you can text to *233733
If you just stopped to add that number to your contacts, you just took the first step in becoming a victim's advocate!
Recently a Lyft driver was able to help rescue a girl from trafficking by taking action when something didn't seem right. As he drove a young woman and her female companion, he listened to the conversation that took place between them. After he dropped them off at a Holiday Inn, he watched as they met up with another person in the parking lot, and then he proceeded to call the police because his gut told him something was not right. As a result of his action, that young woman was rescued from a very terrible situation.
Airlines and motels are now implementing training for their employees on how to spot and recognize victims of trafficking since these industries are often used in human trafficking. Flight crews are taught to look for passengers who appear frightened, ashamed, or nervous; people traveling with someone who doesn't appear to be a parent or relative; and children or adults who appear bruised or battered. They're also taught to notice if someone insists on speaking for the alleged victim, doesn't let them out of their sight, or becomes defensive when questioned. Victims sometimes may even appear drugged.
These same principles can be used by all of us. Pay attention when you are at a gas station, fast-food restaurant, or hotel to the people around you. If you sense there is a weird dynamic between a young girl and the person she is with, don't just write it off. Often our gut will alert us to situations that don't make sense. If you feel like someone might be a victim, take the chance of calling the authorities. You may be wrong, but if you aren't, you could very possibly save a victim from harm.
If you are a frequent traveler, there is also an app called TraffickCam (iOS) (Android) that uses a database to help identify victim's locations. It's targeted toward travelers who book frequent hotel rooms. TraffickCam is intended to make the search for young trafficking victims strikingly faster for law enforcement. App users can snap photos of their hotel rooms before unpacking, then upload the images to the app. The growing collection of images feeds a national database with a search tool enhanced by advanced computer image analysis that analyzes hotel decor, rug patterns, drapery, art, linens, and furniture to help law enforcement locate victims that are exploited online. (Fight the New Drug)
With this knowledge and the intention to jump into action if you feel you encounter a victim of trafficking, we can put a dent in the victimization of so many innocent people, just hoping that someone will notice their suffering and help.