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Who Can Help in the United States?

Individuals Interested in Helping to Combat Human Trafficking

TOOLKIT

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Human Trafficking in the U.S.

Human Trafficking is a highly complex issue that affects potentially thousands of foreign and domestic men, women, and children in the United States. No one is certain how many people are trafficked in the United States every year. The US Government, state agencies, and various non-governmental organizations throughout the US are committed to preventing trafficking, protecting victims of trafficking and prosecuting traffickers.

It is important to know the difference between trafficking and smuggling, and the difference between trafficking and exploitation, as not all cases of labor exploitation or prostitution are instances of trafficking. The US federal statute, Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, has created guidelines for federal officials to recognize situations of trafficking, as the situations are usually extremely complex. Trained authorities and service providers, after interviewing the trafficked person, can be the best judge of whether there is a trafficking situation (instances of force, fraud, or coercion constitute sex or labor trafficking).

American girls as trafficking victims?

Underage American girls, many of them runaways or throwaways, also get caught up in forced prostitution in the United States. These can also be considered instances of trafficking, though again, trained authorities and service providers would be the best judge. For more information about American girls caught up in forced prostitution, read Who Is There to Help Us?

**It should be noted that despite the depiction of trafficking on the recent Lifetime Channel mini-series, Human Trafficking, to date, there have not been any instances of American girls or boys kidnapped for the international commercial sex trade in Southeast Asia or anywhere else in the world.

The following information is provided so that American citizens feel EMPOWERED to be able to recognize what a victim of trafficking might look like, and act accordingly.

REPORT INSTANCES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING!

If you suspect someone has been trafficked, call the:
Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored, toll-free, 24 hour
NATIONAL HOTLINE: +1-888-3737-888

or

Department of Justice-sponsored, toll-free, 24 hour
Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line
+1-888-428-7581

These hotlines will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations.

You may also call:

If you have information about the COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION of a child in the U.S. or abroad, you can do the following:


HOW TO RECOGNIZE A VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING

RED FLAGS TO LOOK OUT FOR A TRAFFICKING VICTIM:

  • Living with Employer
  • Poor Living Conditions
  • Multiple People in Cramped Space
  • Inability to Speak to an Individual Alone
  • Employer Holding Identity Documents
  • Signs of Physical Abuse
  • Submissive or Fearful
  • Unpaid or Paid Very Little
  • Under 18 and in Prostitution
  • Heavy security at the commercial establishment including barred windows, locked doors, isolated location, electronic surveillance. Women are never seen leaving the premises unless escorted.
  • Victims live at the same premises as the brothel or work site or are driven between quarters and "work" by a guard. For labor trafficking, victims are often prohibited from leaving the work site, which may look like a guarded compound from the outside.
  • Victims are kept under surveillance when taken to a doctor, hospital or clinic for treatment; trafficker may act as a translator.
  • High foot traffic especially for brothels where there may be trafficked women indicated often by a stream of men arriving and leaving the premises.

Trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls. While each victim will have a different experience, they share common threads. Trafficking victims live a life marked by abuse, betrayal of their basic human rights, and control under their trafficker. The following indicators in and of themselves may not be enough to meet the legal standard for trafficking, but they indicate that a victim is controlled by someone else and, accordingly, the situation should be further investigated.

IF YOU ARE ABLE TO ASK QUESTIONS OF A PERSON YOU THINK HAS BEEN TRAFFICKED, THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • Can You Leave Your Job if You Want?
  • Can You Come and Go as You Please?
  • Have You Been Hurt or Threatened if You Tried to Leave?
  • Has Your Family Been Threatened?
  • Do You Live With Your Employer?
  • Where Do You Sleep and Eat?
  • Are You in Debt to Your Employer?
  • How did you arrive at this destination?
  • Do You Have Your Passport/ID? If Not, Who Has It?

Very Important: You do not want to create a situation of greater danger for this person. Ask questions with great care and sensitivity. The person may be traumatized and not be able to speak about his/her experience. Most trafficking victims will not readily volunteer information about their status because of fear and abuse they have suffered at the hands of their trafficker. They may also be reluctant to come forward with information from despair, discouragement, and a sense that there are no viable options to escape their situation. Even if pressed, they may not identify themselves as someone held in bondage for fear of retribution to themselves or family members.

Anyone can report suspected trafficking cases. If the victim is under 18, U.S. professionals who work in law enforcement, healthcare, social care, mental health, and education are mandated to report such cases. Through a grass-roots community-wide effort and public awareness campaign, more professionals on the front line can readily identify the trafficking victim and have him/her treated accordingly.


INDICATORS THAT OFTEN POINT TO A PERSON HELD IN A TRAFFICKING CONDITION

Health Characteristics of a Trafficked Person
Some of the health problems that may be evident in a victim include:

  • Malnutrition, dehydration or poor personal hygiene
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Signs of rape or sexual abuse
  • Bruising, broken bones, or other signs of untreated medical problems
  • Critical illnesses including diabetes, cancer or heart disease
  • Post-traumatic stress or psychological disorders

Other Important Signs
In addition to some of the obvious physical and mental indicators of trafficking, there are other signs that an individual is being controlled by someone else. Red flags should go up for police or aid workers who notice any of the following during an intake. The individual:

  • Does not hold his/her own identity or travel documents
  • Suffers from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade and frighten the individual
  • Has a trafficker or pimp who controls all the money, victim will have very little or no pocket money


YOUR INVOLVEMENT 
U.S. NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)

Over the last four years, U.S. nongovernmental organizations and service providers (psychologists, attorneys, advocates, etc.) have received grants from the US Government to provide services to victims of trafficking throughout the US. It is possible that an NGO in your area accepts donations or volunteers.

a) Support financially or donate other materials to a local nongovernmental organization combating human trafficking
b) Volunteer with a local NGO if you have relevant skills

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
If you are interested in donating to, or volunteering with, International Organizations in other countries, you can see the list of International Organizations in Asia which accept donations and volunteers. If you would like more information, contact director@humantrafficking.org


DOES YOUR STATE HAVE A HUMAN TRAFFICKING STATUTE?

Advocate to your State Representatives or Senators for your state to pass anti-human trafficking statutes on human trafficking to support the federal level statutes. The Department of Justice has written a Model State Anti-Trafficking Criminal Statute.

The following states have passed various state-level statutes on trafficking:
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
South Carolina
Texas
Washington State
Bills are pending in:
New Jersey
Ohio
Pennsylvania

Bills are pending in:
New Jersey
Ohio
Pennsylvania


UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Sex Trafficking: Victims of sex trafficking are often found working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts, i.e. brothels, strip clubs, pornography production houses. Such establishments may operate under the guise of:

  • Massage parlors
  • Escort services
  • Adult bookstores
  • Modeling studios
  • Bars/strip clubs

Not every person working in these establishments will have technically been trafficked. It would be necessary for trained authorities or service providers to interview each person individually to determine trafficking.

Labor Trafficking: People forced into indentured servitude can be found in:

  • Sweatshops (where abusive labor standards are present)
  • Commercial agricultural situations (fields, processing plants, canneries)
  • Domestic situations (maids, nannies)
  • Construction sites (particularly if public access is denied)
  • Restaurant and custodial work

How Do People Get Trapped Into Sex or Labor Trafficking?

No one volunteers to be exploited. Traffickers frequently recruit people through fraudulent advertisements promising legitimate jobs as hostesses, domestics, or work in the agricultural industry. Trafficking victims of all kinds come from rural, suburban, and urban settings. There are signs when commercial establishments are holding people against their will.


INCREASE PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Host a discussion or open forum about Human Trafficking at your local church, college, school, synagogue, or civic group. Many Americans are still unaware of how widespread the problem is and how it may even be happening in their own backyards. The more people learn about this human rights abuse, the more "eyes and ears" are available to help report suspected cases and prevent further abuses. To request a speaker for your group, contact director@humantrafficking.org.

For more information on how you can help to combat trafficking, contact:

Andrea Bertone, Director
www.HumanTrafficking.org
Academy for Educational Development
Washington, DC
director@humantrafficking.org
Phone: +1.202.884.8916

Information for this Toolkit was taken from multiple places, including METRO DC ACTS Wallet Card; Tips for Recognizing Victims of Trafficking in PersonsCitizen Action: How Can I Help End Modern-Day Slavery?; U.S. Policy Alert on Human Trafficking

Updated: November 14, 2006

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