January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Learn what it is and how you can help.

WHAT IS TRAFFICKING?

Human trafficking is a form of slavery because victims are doing work (labor or sex) for someone else’s economic benefit against their will.  The law defines human trafficking as someone forcing another person by using violence, threats or fraud to work or commit a commercial sex act. If the victim is under 18, then no violence, threats or fraud are necessary.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS IT?

The International Labour Organization estimates there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. There are 14,500-17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year. And there are an estimated 200,000 U.S. citizens in forced labor. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. Because of our role as a crossroads of the nation – due to I-35, I-40, and I-44 – we are also a crossroads for human trafficking. So while we are not statistically at the top of the chart, there is a lot of it going on around us.

There are three categories of trafficking. Commercial sex trafficking involves the sale of adults for sex. Domestic minor sex trafficking is the sale of children under 18 for sex. And labor trafficking is forced labor of adults or children.

Sex trafficking victims may be found on the internet, massage parlors, strip clubs, modeling studios, truck stops and hotels and motels. Labor trafficking victims may be found in agriculture, construction sites, restaurants, nail salons, and janitorial, among other industries. Trafficking occurs across all races, gender, and socio-economic status. The National Center of Missing & Exploited Children reports that 1 out of 6 reported endangered runaways were likely sex trafficking victims.

HOW CAN A CIVIL LAWSUIT HELP?

There are several examples of recent lawsuits that have helped trafficking victims. In November 2017, the ACLU filed suit against DARP (Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program) for running an unpaid labor camp benefiting several well-known corporations in chicken processing, welding, and other fields.

Sex trafficking victims have sued hotels for ignoring the many warning signs of trafficking. Another victim was able to hold a club responsible for commercial sex trafficking. She was 13 years old. Several victims have also successfully sued Backpage for facilitating minor sex trafficking.

Under federal law, victims of human trafficking are allowed to sue the trafficker as well as any person or institution who financially benefitted from victimization or those who should have known what was going on.

Some trafficking has also been stopped by concerned neighbors of hotels where sex trafficking is occurring because of the “nuisance” the hotel creates in the neighborhood.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of trafficking, or if you suspect trafficking is going on in your business or neighborhood, contact Koller Trial Law.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP VICTIMS?

Call the local hotline:  1-855-617-2288.

This hotline is run by Oklahoma’s Bureau of Narcotics who has been assigned the task of investigating trafficking.

Call the national hotline:  1-888-373-788.

Polaris is a non-profit agency fighting human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline operates 24/7/365 and has the capability of dealing with 200 languages.

Download & Use Traffick Cam app.

This app helps fight sex trafficking by creating a database of photos of hotel rooms across the country. These can then be matched with photos which traffickers post for online advertisements. This allows investigators to hone in on the location of a victim.

Get Involved.

There are a lot of non-profit groups that would love your time or your treasure, both local groups  and national groups are working hard on this issue.