In 2017, there were 93 confirmed cases of human trafficking in Indiana alone and over 8,000 reported cases in the United States.
Indiana is one of many states affected by the problem of human trafficking, and being the famous “Crossroads of America” means Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati and many other cities with trafficking problems are just a short drive away for traffickers to transport victims.
Monday afternoon, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church hosted a Human Trafficking seminar to educate people on the horrors of human trafficking. The seminar has 3 sessions in total over the course of three days.
Morgan Bow, the Region 4 Coalition Coordinator from the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistant Program, trained the public on what human trafficking is and identified red flags to help better identify possible victims of trafficking.
ITVAP is a grant funded organization focused on youth advocacy, delinquency prevention, informations and referrals, and community education in Indiana. They also work with 31 youth service bureaus on victim support.
Tuesday, the Lafayette Police department presented and on Wednesday an attorney from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office closed out the seminar.
In the church’s sanctuary, surrounded by stain glass windows, Bow started by showing a clip. The video was of Aubrey Lloyd, a survivor of sex trafficking, that had worked with ITVAP to create a series of videos. Throughout the event, clips of Aubrey Lloyd were shown to give a perspective on what trafficking is actually like from someone who has experienced it firsthand.
Many hold misconceptions about human trafficking. It isn’t simply a white van with blacked-out windows, snatching someone and disappearing forever.
Trafficking takes many forms, but this Hollywood depiction is far less common than many believe. In reality recruitment of a possible victim can take many months of “investment,” as Bow put it. Traffickers will often appear friendly and eventually manipulate someone into feeling alone, scared or desperate.
Bow touched on a common question: Why don’t these victims just leave? In reality these traffickers use force, fraud, and coercion to manipulate victims into doing what they want, Bow said. Oftentimes, traffickers will isolate victims and use emotional abuse, economic abuse, threats and physical abuse to ensure that these victims won’t escape.
During the event, Bow defined a human-trafficking victim as a person who is forced into involuntary servitude, marriage, commercial sexual conduct or any minor engaged in commercial sexual conduct.
Human trafficking is prevalent nearly everywhere in the U.S., according to the Polaris Project.
In January, the problem became apparent locally. Darius Jamal Brown, 27, was arrested for human trafficking, promoting prostitution and providing alcohol to minors — all right in Lafayette. Some of the industries most vulnerable to trafficking are domestic work, restaurants, health & beauty, massage parlors, construction or forestry sites, agriculture and door to door sales. Some of these, such as forestry or construction, are known as the “unseen industries” according to Bow because nobody ever questions what they see at a construction site. The site is either empty, or people appear to be working but no one would ever know if some of the workers are forced, unpaid labor.
The Polaris Project’s website says labor trafficking has increased but remains underreported because of a lack of awareness.
The number for the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline is 800-800-5556 and for National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-37-37-888.