Look at these faces. Share them. Remember them. Help them.
Nexstar Nation Big Game Digital reporter Ashley Bridges spent time this week with Deborah Richardson of the International Human Trafficking Institute: that was before an Atlanta sex trafficking sting, just days before the Super Bowl, which resulted in the rescue of four victims and the arrest of 33 alleged traffickers. Richardson helped train the 10,000 Super Bowl volunteers to identify signs of trafficking.
But, Richardson said it’s important to know that the Super Bowl doesn’t cause trafficking: while the FBI reports upticks in numbers, Richardson emphasized it is a year-round problem. She also insisted that because trafficking is a function of supply and demand, it is critical to shine a light on the people exploiting the victims, not the victims themselves.
One exception: identifying victims to get them out. For the past ten years, Richardson has partnered with the organization “In Our Backyard” using targeted analytics to distribute booklets with photographs of children who were believed to possibly be trafficked around the Super Bowl. Last year in Minneapolis, the group distributed booklets with images of 34 children. While not all of those children were necessarily being trafficked, the good news is 15 of them were recovered within two weeks. Research shows that within 48 hours of going missing or running away a child or teen will be approached by a trafficker.
Richardson identified the following resources and signs:
-If you see someone you believe to be from this booklet, you can call The National Center on Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678
-If you suspect human trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888; you can also text “help” or “info” to 233733 (BeFree)
-To help a runaway, you can call the Runaway Safeline at 1-800-Runaway
Signs of trafficking include:
-Someone not dressed appropriately: for example having no coat in the cold or young girls wearing party clothes in the early morning, a mismatch between time, place, person, and dress
-Someone traveling between locations without a phone or belongings, or with a handler
-Someone not engaging in conversation as victims are taught to stay with a strict script
Following the Super Bowl, we will have an in-depth special about trafficking and ways authorities and activists are targeting traffickers and buyers–for both sex and labor.