This is not a burning issue, but rather a heartbreaking issue that requires global attention.
Many world events attract media attention. However, human trafficking is not one of them. Human trafficking has permeated the underbelly of society, always below the surface.
“It’s in your backyard, no matter where your backyard is,” said Abbie Newman, CEO of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, while adding that regional crime reports are increasing and many victims are sold and exploited. by family members.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar global industry in which vulnerable people are manipulated by strangers or their family members, kidnapped, held hostage, and sold into forced labor, sex work, or the taking of drugs. organs. Those most likely to be targeted and sold into this inhuman market are women, children, members of the LGBTQ+ community, ex-convicts, those with low self-esteem, and teenage runaways.
Three distinguished professionals visited Cabrini on January 31 at Grace Hall to discuss the tragic details of human trafficking. These professionals included Newman, Carla Clanagan, member of Cabrini Domestic Violence Awareness Advisory Council and Norristown Interagency Council Board of Directors, and Walt Hunter, retired Eyewitness News reporter and board member of Mission Kids, the Montgomery County children’s advocacy center.
Newman explained how human trafficking occurs not only in the area of the King of Prussia, but all over.
“I don’t care where you’re from, it’s human trafficking,” Newman said.
She said there is an infrared visual map from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Polaris, which shows dots indicating where national trafficking hotspots date back to 2019. Clusters of red dots surround major highways, with a strong density of reports from locations along I-95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“The other thing that’s really important to understand is that many victims of trafficking, especially teenagers and children, are trafficked from their homes,” Newman said.
Pandemic triggers more crimes
Statistics have proven that during the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, more parents and guardians sold their children for sex acts.
“It got worse,” Newman said. “There has been an increase in the number of children on child pornography websites or people looking to buy and abuse child pornography. If a child is locked inside with their abuser, they can’t get out. Commissioned journalists, teachers, classmates and friends cannot tell if something is wrong. They are hidden in plain sight.
Newman shared with the audience that human trafficking is $150 billion per year in the global industry. While in the United States alone, it’s a $44 billion a year industry.
Newman also shared that according to a study done in San Diego seven years ago, 20 high school districts reported at least one student who was believed to have been the victim of human trafficking while attending school. ‘school.
“Many victims of trafficking, however, do not initially identify as victims,” Newman said. “Often there is a grooming process. 70-90% of adolescents and children involved in human trafficking have a history of child or sexual abuse.
Traffickers look for groups of girls who hang out together, targeting girls who might be left out. This is where the grooming process can begin.
“At this point, she doesn’t think the stranger is going to snatch her up and sell her,” Newman said. “They’re going to manipulate her into doing things she wouldn’t normally do and then she won’t have a choice. She still wouldn’t see herself as a victim.
Fortunately, Newman also said human trafficking laws have improved over the past 20 years.
“I think one of the biggest issues is making sure there’s an understanding that trafficking is everywhere,” Newman said. “In recent years, we have found better responses to the trafficking of minors and adults. Laws relating to adults are different from laws relating to minors. All of these laws must work together.
Victims who don’t know they are victims
Clanagan works closely with two programs. A community empowerment program brings in victims who don’t know they are survivors and educates them.
“We educate them about human trafficking through another program called ‘Ending the Game’ which talks a lot about how to get out of the life of prostitution, escorting, stripping and ultimately human trafficking or sex trafficking,” Clanagan said. “It’s about education, showing them and giving them resources so that they understand that there are programs to help them.”
Through the education program, Clanagan mentions that victims usually have an “a ha” moment when they realize they have been victims of human trafficking. They realize that the things that have happened to them are not normal and that they have been violated in some way.
The second program she works closely with is a housing program for survivors. This is a long-term residential housing program that houses women only for two years. This program is linked across the country with other shelters doing the same type of work and is part of a national alliance.
“In this program, they still come to us knowing they’ve been traumatized, some kind of violated, but they still don’t recognize themselves as victims of sex trafficking,” Clanagan said. She explains the need for these victims to have to do something to earn money and to look to their bodies to do so.
Clanagan mentions a term called “complex trauma” to describe the type of trauma the victims suffered. She explains it as going through the same experiences several times a day over a period of time.
While working with the women and educating them, Clanagan notices their behavior and how out of the ordinary it is.
“A lot of their behaviors are related to the fact that their brain stopped working at the level it was supposed to when the trauma started,” she said. “They don’t trust, they don’t know how to have healthy relationships including friendships, they don’t have safe people in their lives and their families have left them.”
Clanagan pivots to mention that while she primarily deals with women, men can and are victims of human trafficking as well.
“Not only are they trafficked, but they are used to reach girls. They will use what they call a ‘romeo pimp’ to get close to the ‘it guy’ in a situation, use them to get close to women, groom them and manipulate them and thus victimize them,” she said. .
Clanagan says to watch out for subtle signs that are noticeable, such as changes in their behavior and the way they dress.
Since human trafficking is such a dark and mature subject, it is important that the media deal with it with the seriousness it deserves.
Hunter, after years of reporting dark and hidden crime in the Philadelphia area, knows how important it is for the media to cover human trafficking.
“When you cover any of these cases, you think of the faces in the windows – people who are helpless, disenfranchised,” Hunter said. “They stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Hunter offers a few ways to better report trafficking cases.
The first way, he said, is to read everything you can about a case. Take it to court and read all available documents. “Once you have a fountain of knowledge, you have to put the meat on the bones of that story and spread it,” Hunter said.
He mentions that court decisions often take a long time because of the trial period. He says it is important as a journalist to continue reporting on the case after the decision has been made so that voices are heard.
Keeping everyone confidential for the safety of victims is also important according to Hunter. “Lives are being destroyed,” he said. “Giving names can cause more problems for these victims down the line.”
“It’s a ‘yuck’ topic,” Hunter said. “You need to come up with a sincere, compassionate and creative plan to cover this topic. You need to focus on the victims first to humanize them and your story. You need to grab the reader’s attention, but you need to do it from the good manner.
“There’s no other side to this question, it’s as close to evil personified as anything you could imagine.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 and CAPS (Cabrini’s Counseling and Psychological Services) at 1-610-902-8561.