Human trafficking is not just an international problem. It is happening in our communities, and you can help.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States, an important time to recognize the dangers and signs of human trafficking and learn more about what you can do to help prevent it. While some perceive human trafficking as strictly an international problem, human trafficking occurs in the United States, too. In fact, in 2018, the Utah Attorney General’s Office conducted 49 human trafficking investigations, prosecuted 8 cases, and served 44 victims (Source: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/human-trafficking-in-utah-2/).
Furthermore, did you know that the Ogden Police Department has the highest rate of human trafficking cases in the state, not because Ogden has the highest rates of trafficking, but because we have the only human trafficking task force in a local police department in Utah? This task force is doing incredible work keeping our community safe.
While trafficking disproportionately impacts women and girls from historically underrepresented communities, it is not limited to one demographic. Human trafficking can impact anyone. There are no definite signs to determine if someone is being trafficked. Traffickers use a variety of controlling and coercive methods to manipulate their victims, and it’s not always easy to spot. As Polaris reminds us, it is not only about seeing the signs, but rather knowing the person’s story, as context is key. However, you can keep an eye out for indicators of trafficking. Some key indicators include:
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 engaging 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?
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? (Source: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/initiatives/human-trafficking/)
Many people don’t want to believe that human trafficking could be happening where they live. In all likelihood, though, it’s happening in our community. In most cases, victims know their trafficker, and are held captive not by physical means but rather by threats, lies, and manipulation. This means that anyone could have the opportunity to interact with a potential victim of human trafficking. It’s up to you, and all of us, to look out for signs of trafficking and protect the populations most vulnerable. The Utah Women & Leadership Project of Utah State University recommends three steps to ending human trafficking: 1) prevention, 2) identification, and 3) intervention.
Prevention involves speaking up and gaining awareness about the signs of human trafficking through education. In 2019, the Utah Core State Standards for Health Education adopted a domestic abuse and healthy relationships curriculum to bring human trafficking awareness education into high schools. Prevention also includes targeting the systems that make individuals most vulnerable - including, but not limited to, poverty, forced or cheap labor, lack of education, and homelessness.
The second step is identifying organizations and individuals involved in human trafficking. If you suspect someone is trafficking or being trafficked, or if you are in an unsafe situation that may lead to trafficking, contact the police immediately. You can also reach out to the Human Trafficking National Hotline 24/7 at 1-888-3737888 or text “HELP” at 233733 (BEFREE).
Finally, intervention includes assisting victims and supporting those systems that decrease vulnerabilities to trafficking. The Junior League of Ogden is proud to support the Ogden Police Human Trafficking Task Force in their efforts of intervention as well as community partners such as the YCC, Lantern House, and more. All of us can also help end and prevent human trafficking by exercising our right to vote, passing legislation to protect vulnerable populations, and engaging in mindful purchasing practices that reduce the demand for cheap and exploitative labor.
As we close out National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the U.S, we’d like to use this moment to thank those who work on the frontline to end human trafficking – from activists to survivor advocates to medical personnel. We appreciate the incredible work you do and your commitment to the cause.
Get connected to resources and help raise awareness about human trafficking: https://humantraffickinghotline.org