Being aware, speaking out could make the difference for victims of human trafficking crimes.
How do you recognize a victim of human trafficking?
Is it a female of a specific age range? Do they typically ask for help? How do you get help for someone? Is this national problem limited to bigger cities?
Otoe County First Responders learned the answers to these questions and more thanks to a presentation sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Omaha.
They were offered two sessions this week at Nebraska City Lourdes High School; these were taught by consultant Anna Brewer who spent 15 years working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation identifying and helping victims of human trafficking.
Brewer said that it’s most important that people realize that it’s a problem, recognize the signs, and respond.
Though many victims are female, human trafficking happens to people of every gender, race, and age. Many of them do not come out and ask for help because they are being controlled in a variety of ways.
Some are forced to participate by the threat of physical harm to themselves or the threat of harm to their children.
Others believe false promises of love or money and feel trapped in trafficking by previous poor decisions.
They have been targeted, isolated, and often feel completely dependent upon their abusers.
Within 72 hours of running away, one in three children will be approached by a human trafficker who first offers help before soon forcing them into prostitution.
In 2016, one in five missing kids became victims of trafficking - up from one in six in 2014.
This national epidemic is happening in cities of all sizes, and most of it happens online.
Every month, an estimated 900 individuals are sold, often multiple times, in Nebraska. At least ten percent of those are under 21 years of age.
According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha at www.omahawomendsfund.org, “Many individuals advertised online work together in groups.
This introduces the possibility that they are under third-party control, such as an escort agency, massage parlor, or a “stable” facilitated by a pimp. When a third-party is involved, an individual’s freedom is likely to be constrained.
Since escort agencies, call services, and massage parlors are not the norm for Nebraska, data indicates that a significant portion probably works for a pimp/trafficker. This is especially the case for the state’s younger girls, who are likely to work in groups. This aligns with research showing that young girls rarely enter into the commercial sex industry without a facilitator, or pimp, actively recruiting them and breaking them into the industry.”
More information can be found at www.omahawomensfund.org on statistics and signs of abuse. Area businesses and groups can contact Anna Brewer at 402-250-3635 to present this information in the hopes of increasing awareness and reducing this type of abuse and control.
“If you see something, say something.” To report possible exploitation, contact the Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or 911.