Author: MNI Alive | Date: 17 January 2018
Anyone can find themselves confronted with a human trafficking situation. The victims are often right on the street and in stores with us in plain sight.
“Traffickers, manipulate and instill fear in their victims.” says Nita Belles, Executive Director of the non-profit advocacy group In Our Backyard, “They use force, fraud or coercion to keep their victims trapped in labor or sex trafficking. Inside a public restroom stall is often the only place that a victim of human trafficking is alone and able to ask for help.”
Belles, who has been actively involved in efforts to combat trafficking nationwide for the past 12 years, is organizing an innovative effort to get “Freedom Stickers” placed into public restroom stalls to provide victims a pathway to freedom, at a moment when the traffickers control is at its weakest.
Each Freedom Sticker has the toll-free number and text of the National Human Trafficking Hotline in both English and Spanish.
Belles and members of In Our Backyard are seeking to raise awareness of ways to stop human trafficking at a special event on Saturday January 27th in Minneapolis, not far from the US. Bank Stadium where the NFL Superbowl game is being held.
What: Stop Human Trafficking Awareness Event
Who: Experts will offer awareness and training and then volunteers will distribute key awareness materials to the Twin Cities, focusing on convenience stores
Where: Hope Community Church, East Building, 704 11th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55415
When: Saturday, January 27th, 2018 from 9am - 2pm
The event is free and open to the public. The goal is to educate and empower regular citizens to save the lives of innocent people. Donations are welcome. Register at www.InOurBackyard.org
After the training, teams are sent out all across the Twin Cities, armed with Freedom Stickers and Missing Children’s Booklets. “We have done this outreach for the last nine Super Bowls. Every year missing children are recovered and Freedom Stickers bring freedom to those trapped in human trafficking.
Belles, who has worked with law enforcement across the nation on numerous cases, is also author of the book, In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What You Can Do to Stop it.
“The traffickers’ use of threats, coercion and abuse” Belles points out, “is so powerful that victims are afraid to accept help. Knowing the indicators of human will help you verify the gut feeling that something is wrong and needs to be reported”.
Here are some of the ways she says people can identify and help assist a victim of human trafficking:
Be Aware & Take Notice - What do you see?
Does a child, teen, or adult avoid eye contact and conversations?
Victim may act disoriented, drugged, sleepy, quiet, afraid or confused?
Are they with someone who may appear to dominate and control what they do, who they talk to, and what they say? Do answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed?
Are they being made to work for little or no pay?
Do they seem secretive, anxious, fearful or paranoid? Do they appear tearful or depressed?
Do you see fresh bruises, cuts or other signs of physical abuse or do they appear malnourished?
Do they appear to be resistant or unhappy with what companion is asking them to do?
Are they being forced to do commercial sex acts?
Are they being watched or constantly monitored by phone calls or texts?
is someone translating or answering questions on their behalf?
Do they offer fuzzy and inconsistent details? Are they unable to answer where they live, what they are doing, or where they are going?
Do they lack identification and look down when spoken to? May or may not speak English.
Do they appear afraid of law enforcement or receiving help from anyone?
What to Do Next
If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking -- REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY!
Call 911 if an emergency is in progress. Otherwise, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1.888-373-7888
Remember not to approach a suspected victim or trafficker -- intervening on your own may endanger not only you, but the victims as well.
Any Time Actions
Be ready at all times - Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 in your cell phone.
The Hotline is able to handle calls from anywhere in the United States in any language. In addition to reporting and getting help from law enforcement there is help finding shelter, reaching community members, medical and legal assistance, health care providers, and other critical resources.
Get involved! Help place Freedom Stickers inside bathroom stalls at sports venues, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, hotels, motels, and other public places. Bathrooms are often the only places a victim of human trafficking is alone and able to get help.
Note: If you are interested in finding out more about helping deploy Freedom Stickers, visithttp://inourbackyard.org