Fighting Human Trafficking in Small Communities
Houston, New York City, Las Vegas, Columbus – it’s no surprise that these large cities top the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s ranking of cities with the highest number of trafficking calls. Jarring reports of the large number of victims in these cities can be read in the headlines of national newspapers, and organizations fighting human trafficking often build their headquarters in these cities to be in the center of the battle.
These statistics can be deceiving to those living in small communities.
It’s easy to feel untouched by the horrors in such populous places as we read the headlines miles away from the source. However, Polaris published statistics that listed agriculture labor trafficking, as well as, sex and labor trafficking in illicit massage businesses, bars and strip clubs as some of the most prevalent types of trafficking in 2017 - all of which can be found in rural or small communities.
Scott Santoro, training program manager at the Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, stated, “[Traffickers] don’t necessarily want to work in big cities. They are drawn to small towns…because they feel like they won’t get caught. So areas that have a lot of agricultural farming, areas that have not a lot of law enforcement on patrol…those are areas that are also breeding grounds. Traffickers know that and they want to do some of their work there.”
Trafficking in rural or small communities then presents its own set of unique issues. In smaller communities, there are fewer jobs available, increasing the number of people vulnerable to trafficking. Those who are trafficked also have more difficulty finding help as there are not as many centers and organizations equipped to assist trafficking victims to escape and recover. Even if a victim is able to escape, they may feel unable to ask for help as it could be exposing someone else’s relative, neighbor, or friend. This hesitation gives traffickers time to recapture their victims and exploit them further.
Truck stops are especially prevalent in more rural states, and since truck stops are isolated, they are convenient places for traffickers to prostitute their victims. They are also often a pit-stop for traffickers who are transporting their victims to the larger cities. Because police officers, social workers, and emergency personnel are often not provided with training on identifying and responding to trafficking situations, it is relatively easy for traffickers to remain undetected and to continue their horrific work.
Human trafficking victims in small communities need help. They need those who are living in small communities alongside them to rise up and fight for them.
But how can we help?
Be informed: As stated above, a lack of education regarding human trafficking indicators can allow trafficking to occur unchecked. You can learn the signs that can help you identify human trafficking victims. You can also research the ways that your local law enforcement and governments deal with trafficking situations; thus, when you spot suspicious trafficking activity, you know how to properly report them. It is also important to know where victims can go for help. Does your community have a welfare system or community center or church that can assist victims?
Inform Others: If your police officers, social workers, and emergency personnel have not been properly trained in regards to human trafficking situations, talk with your local government officials and stress the importance of this training. Traffickers can only be caught and successfully prosecuted if the resources and ability are presented to our law enforcement. Those in authority should not be the only ones educated, however. Reach out to local businesses and appeal to them to become more aware of the source of their products or to keep watch over their employees to ensure their safety. You can also invite speakers to come to local community organizations to give public presentations that spread awareness to your fellow neighbors. International Justice Mission, one of Dressember’s grant partners, is just one of many organizations that you can contact to speak.
Advocate: Continue to raise your voice through advocacy campaigns and share what you’re learning with others. Many people still do not believe that slavery exists. We have the power to create change when we share what we know.
Educating yourself, informing others, and advocating for trafficking victims are a great way small community members can support the fight against human trafficking. Don’t let victims in small communities go unnoticed. Join the fight!
Small Run, Big Impact.
Join us on April 13th for our second annual 'You Can Do Anything in a Dress (or Tie)' 5k. Run in our Los Angeles 5k/Yoga event or run virtually in your own city! Set up your free campaign page and purchase tickets for the LA event today!
About the Author
Galaxy tights, brightly patterned socks, and a steaming cup of tea in her T. Rex mug often accompany Megan Shupp when she sits down to write. After graduating from Thomas Edison State University with her Bachelor in English and earning a Graduate Certificate in Editing from UC Berkeley, she is excited to use her passion for writing and stories to join Dressember in their fight against slavery.