If you’re like many, you may not have ever considered that human trafficking is going on all around us. It’s one of those out of sight, out of mind things.
Yes, it may be happening right here in our own community of Pequea Township.
Today I’m going to share with you what it is, why it’s so awful, and our very own Chief Michener is going offer some sound and practical words to help us identify and potentially stop it in our township.
Over the last few months, I’ve heard numerous stories of women and their daughters who felt they were being followed around in the grocery store or a parking lot by a creepy guy. I’ve heard other stories of activities of innocent daughters getting sucked in over the internet.
This last Sunday at Grace Community Church Willow Street, I had the pleasure of meeting Janelle Esbenshade. Janelle is the Director of Development for North Star Initiative. She made it clear to me that this isn’t an issue that is just happening on the southern border, which is what many of us think of when we think about this issue.
In its simplest form, Janelle shared that human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery and is one of the largest criminal industries in the world. What’s worse is that it’s the fastest growing criminal act in the world as well.
North Star Initiative says that many victims are made to engage in activities such as:
- Exotic Dancing
- Labor Exploitation
- Domestic Servitude
Some work in restaurants, sweatshops or migrant agricultural work.
Many are faced with all kinds of servitude and abuse to include rape, beatings, confinement, threats, restraint, and psychological abuse.
Once she exposed this for me, I decided to write about this subject.
The first thing I did was call our Chief of Police to get some information from him.
Chief Michener expressed his concern that it could be happening anywhere, including right here.
When he offered to write a piece for my blog, I jumped on it.
Thank you, Chief Michener!
The remainder of this blog article is his contribution to help us all be aware of what human trafficking is and is not. He also shared with us what to look for and how to protect ourselves and our families and friends from this real and dangerous issue.
Take it away Chief Minchener…
Chief Michener, Chief of Police, Pequea Township
Human Trafficking is a serious issue nationwide from large cities to small communities. Many people confuse this with human smuggling across the border or think that human trafficking is limited to the commercial sex trade. Human Trafficking is much more widespread than that, it can occur in any town and comes in many forms.
The simplest definition is denying someone’s freedom for profit.
Forcing someone, by threats coercion or manipulation, to work in inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions for little or no compensation.
The best way to stop it is to be aware that it is out there, be knowledgeable in the signs of attempted Human Trafficking and report it. Be mindful of the signs and symptoms of victims of Human Trafficking and try and help friends and family who may fall victim to it.
Safety Tips – Don’t Become a Victim
The first step in preventing Human Trafficking is not becoming a victim.
Safety in public and on the internet is paramount in today’s age. The following are some safety tips and good practice which can prevent becoming a victim of Human Trafficking and other crimes:
- Trust your judgment. If a situation or individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.
- Don’t go into strange or unfamiliar areas alone, or if you find yourself in that situation call someone and keep them on the phone until safe.
- Let a trusted friend or relative know if you feel like you are in danger or if a person or situation is suspicious.
- If possible, set up safety words with
a trusted friend/relative.
- One word can mean that it is safe to talk and you are alone.
- A separate word can mean you are not safe.
- It is also important to communicate what you would like done (cease communication immediately, call 9-1-1, meet somewhere to pick you up, etc.).
- Keep important numbers on your person at all times, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.
- Make sure that you have a means of communication (cell phone or phone card), access to your bank account, and any medication that you might need with you at all times.
- When posting on social networking sites, double check privacy settings and remove any geographical check-in points such as Four Square, or automatic GPS tags on photographs or photograph-based websites
- When posting on social networking sites, be cautious not to provide unnecessary information regarding your daily activities or close friends and family.
- Do a search on Google, Bing, and Yahoo for your full name and city or state to screen all publicly available information that someone can find about you on the Internet. Also, be cautious about having photos of you or your children displayed online.
- If you think you might be in immediate danger or you are experiencing an emergency, contact 9-1-1 first.
Red Flags – How to Identify a Potential Human Trafficker
Human Traffickers will often meet their potential victims through employment seeking avenues or through dating scenarios.
The following are some red flags that may be associated with Human Trafficking.
The Intimate Partner or Employer:
- Comes on very strongly and promises things that seem too good to be true – i.e. promises extremely high wages for easy work.
- Expects that you will agree to the employment or relationship on the spot, and threatens that otherwise the opportunity will be lost.
- Is unclear about the terms of employment, location of employment and/or the company details/credentials. Partner/employer denies access to information about your rights.
- Denies contact with friends or family or attempts to isolate you from your social network.
- Constantly checks on you and does not allow you access to your money.
- Asks you to do things outside of your comfort zone such as performing sexual favors for friends.
- Displays signs/characteristics of a dangerous person including: attempts to control movement and behaviors, exhibits jealousy, lashes out or delivers punishment in response to noncompliance, is verbally/emotionally/physically abusive.
- Uses threats or displays of violence to create a culture of fear.
When considering new employment you should –
- Request information about the position, scope of work, and hours/conditions of the position.
- Do not provide personal information (address, SS#) to the employer if you do not feel comfortable.
- If meeting with the employer, make sure a trusted friend/relative knows where you are going and what time you expect to return.
- Plan to meet the employer in a public place where others are around.
- Verify that the business is legitimate by asking for the Employer Identification Number (EIN). This information can be checked by calling the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (800) 829-4933 (for U.S. businesses only).
- Ask to speak with former employees/clients about their experience with the company. This can be particularly important for positions abroad.
- If the employment opportunity involves travel to another country, make sure you obtain the appropriate visa. Depending on the country and the nature of the employment, you or your employer may be responsible for securing the visa – make sure to check with the country’s regulations to confirm before accepting an offer.
Preventing Human Trafficking
The next step in preventing Human Trafficking is finding it and stopping it.
You may have friends or family members who have unknowingly gotten themselves into a human trafficking situation. Here are some tips on how to spot a potential Human Trafficking victim –
- Is not free to leave or come and go at will
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- Is living and working on site
- Experiences verbal or physical abuse by their supervisor
- Is not given proper safety equipment
- Is not paid directly
- Is forced to meet daily quotas
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement or immigration officials
- Shows signs of substance use or addiction
- Shows signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment, and/or fatigue
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is frequently monitored
- Is not in control of their own money, financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of their own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where they are staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Appear to have lost sense of time
- Shares scripted, confusing, or inconsistent stories
- Protects the person who may be hurting them or minimizes abuse
Human Trafficking is just like most other crimes. A strong community with family and friends looking out for each other can prevent it.
As always if you see something, say something.
Report anything suspicious right away.
We can work together to help stop this horrible activity.