Putting our many differences aside for one minute, we can all probably agree that human trafficking is nothing short of modern-day slavery. We can all agree that taking a woman captive and using her as a revenue generating sex object is morally reprehensible. And yet as much as we agree, we haven’t been able to stop to it. Why?
There are a lot of challenges that come with human trafficking. The biggest challenge of all is the very reason our efforts in recent years have been largely ineffective. What is that challenge? Recognizing human trafficking when it occurs.
Shoplifting is pretty easy to identify and prevent. DUI and DWI look pretty much the same across the board. We know how to fight both crimes because we know how to identify them. Human trafficking is different. It looks different from one case to the next, making it very difficult to spot unless you are a trained professional who knows what to look for.
Domestic Trafficking is Real
A good example of how different human trafficking is from case to case is found in the story of a Salt Lake City police officer who was once the victim of trafficking. According to a January’s 22nd (2019) Deseret News story, officer Suzie Skirvin was 19 when she moved to California with plans to join the Air Force. Before she knew it, she had met a man who manipulated her and managed to take her captive before she realized what was going on.
Her story is one of domestic trafficking. Believe it or not, most perpetrators of human trafficking are not complete strangers who capture girls a foreign country and send them to the US. That does happen, but according to the Deseret News, perpetrators are often family members of the victims themselves.
During a January 2019 summit on human trafficking in Salt Lake City, attendees were reminded that domestic human trafficking does not follow a black-and-white profile. A special agent with the state Attorney General’s office told attendees unequivocally that “there is no single way that (human trafficking) looks.”
It Will Take a United Effort
The Junior League of SLC, one of the most prominent women’s groups in Salt Lake City, has recently committed itself to getting involved in efforts to bring an end to human trafficking. Organization representatives recently completed their own research into trafficking and were appalled by what they learned. As a result of that research, they came to realize it’s going to take a united effort among all of us to bring an end to what is a scourge on our nation.
It is going to take more than just police officers busting perpetrators when they are found. It’s going to take doctors and nurses purposely looking for the signs of human trafficking. It’s going to take bus drivers, grocery store workers, and church volunteers paying attention to what women say and do.
Bringing an end to human trafficking is going to require people in every neighborhood paying attention to who lives there and what they do. It’s going to require saying something when it seems odd that a woman living down the street never leaves home on her own. It’s going to require stepping up and saying something when that same home is frequented by strange men on a regular basis.
The biggest challenge to stopping human trafficking is identifying it. There is no single face, as it were, for us to recognize. So it’s going to take all of us paying more attention and speaking up if we are ever going to stop this.