by Pride Transport | Aug 14, 2019
First thing let’s call it what it is: Slavery. Modern-day slavery. The fact is, no 13-year-old girl wakes up one morning and thinks, I want to sell my body in truck stops, bars, motels and rest areas to strangers, older men who will abuse me, rape me and then pay another man for the “pleasure of my company”. For those who think or dare to say out loud that these kids “chose” this life, you need to get informed and get your mind right. No one chooses this life. No one wants this life. Most of all, no one deserves this life.
Sadly 4.5 million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited and up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. That’s not a choice, that’s an epidemic.
Most of the girls who are kidnapped and indoctrinated into the sex trafficking world are young, 13, 14, 15 years old. They are captured and forced into prostitution. They are threatened, beaten, they are forced into drug addiction, their family’s lives are threatened and they are dealt psychological blows that none at that age can really handle. One of the main hurdles for activists is to dispel the myth that these kids became prostitutes because they wanted to. This type of prostitution isn’t about people deferring their entrance into Harvard while they turn tricks to earn the money for tuition. That’s not reality, that’s a movie and that kind of thinking is dangerous.
When people encounter young girls at rest stops selling their bodies, the idea that they chose this blinds them to the truth. Somewhere in that parking lot, in that rest area or truck stop, is a third party that is holding this child hostage, that is forcing this child to go from truck to truck selling herself. The child has no choice. No choice that they can see because they have been brainwashed by their “owner”, their “daddy”. They see no escape, they feel they have no choice. If those on the outside feed that “they chose this” reality, look at these children and think they want to do this, then the chances of saving them, stopping trafficking are deeply limited.
A Pipeline of Vulnerability
Children are vulnerable, that’s a simple fact. They’re still finding their way in the world and they can easily fall prey to someone who treats them kindly or offers them a better situation. Victims of trafficking all have different forms of vulnerability. They may come from abusive families, they may have suffered some form of psychological trauma, they may come from extreme poverty. Someone who doesn’t have a strong social network of friends, homeless kids, undocumented kids, Whatever the case, they have a vulnerability and that is what traffickers focus on and exploit.
Traffickers are very savvy and smart, they know exactly what to look for in potential victims and exactly how to exploit that vulnerability. A pimp or trafficker takes the place of a father or a family figure. They refer to their victims, the children they have captured, as a family and often call themselves and make the victims call them Daddy. All of this works toward breaking down any idea of a family the victim has had before and replacing it with someone who claims to love them, care about them and who will give them all they need.
“He said he would give me whatever I wanted if I would do a few favors for him. He kissed me, he said he loved me, that I was the most beautiful girl he saw, he would love me forever.” -Trafficking Victim
This new family idea is usually re-enforced by violent means. If the victim doesn’t want to work, they are beaten. If the victim doesn’t want to call the trafficker ‘daddy” they are beaten. If the victim tries to run away, escape, they are usually beaten and guilted into staying. How could they want to break up the family, isn’t daddy giving you everything you need? If this kind of psychological manipulation doesn’t work, traffickers will turn to threats of physical violence against the victim’s real family and friends.
When a victim has been saved they often speak of feeling trapped, afraid and locked into the life because if they stop, they believed their family will be killed. That feeling of hopelessness makes a victim even more vulnerable and so a vicious circle has started. They see no hope, no chance, no choice and so they accept the life and soon, they have one wish, they wish to die.
Not One Person
Another misconception that has to be changed is the idea that a trafficker is one person. The reality that law enforcement has come to learn through years of dealing with this problem is that traffickers are part of a team. A large team. At the heart of the team is the person who transports the “slave” from place to place. They remain close by and make sure they never leave the slave alone long enough to get help. Behind the transporter is a group that is the “family”. This consists of adults and other victims. The victims become close and this closeness is used against them for discipline or psychologically breaking down of the will. If a girl doesn’t want to work, doesn’t want to have sex, sometimes she isn’t personally threatened rather the daddy will threaten violence against one of her close friends in the family. This constant state of fear keeps the girls working and trapped.
There is a team of people making sure the victims always remain afraid, off-balance and unsure. This all comes from the victim's vulnerability that was expertly uncovered and then exploited by a trafficker.
Sex Trafficking vs. Prostitution
Prostitution is defined as the exchange of sex for money, drugs or influence between two consenting adults-where consent can be given. Human trafficking means there is third party control. When someone is making money on the backs of those individuals- often children- who are having to perform 10, 12, 15 sexual acts and are actually being sexually assaulted all the time, that constitutes sex trafficking.
President Trump has claimed that his proposed wall at the southern border would have a huge effect on ending sex trafficking. Those in the know, like members of the Human Trafficking Advisory Council, say that’s just not true. The HTAC has hard data showing that the kids being trafficked in this country are domestic. They have been found within the United States and they are working state to state, not outside of the country.
One of the reasons human trafficking is still such a problem to stop is because it is an extremely lucrative business. Human trafficking is estimated to bring in global profits of about $150 billion dollars per year. $99 billion of that comes from sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization.
“What we do see is that trafficking of children is becoming an increased revenue stream for organized crime, for gangs. So where they would typically be selling guns or drugs, they’re now turning to the selling of children.” - Dalia Racine
The amount of money generated by human traffickers around the globe means these traffickers will do anything to keep their revenue rolling in at any price. This is making human traffickers more and more dangerous every day.
In the midst of all this ugliness and greed emerges the everyday heroes, the truck drivers. Truck drivers are the eyes and ears of our highways and roads. They see, experience and understand so much about the life on the road that it only makes sense that they became the guardians, the caretakers for the fight against human trafficking.
Truckers Against Trafficking
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is a non-profit organization that was founded in Oklahoma in 2009. The organization trains and equips truck drivers with the knowledge and tools to help prevent and stop human trafficking.
TAT exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and busing industries to combat human trafficking. Many of the venues of choice for sex traffickers-hotels, motels, bars- are also the places frequented by truck drivers. Although truck stops have a reputation for nefarious activities, they are not the top of the list for trafficking venues. This is why truck drivers are so invaluable, they go where most trafficking happens and they are becoming the eyes and ears of anti-trafficking campaigns.
Truck drivers often see trafficking while it’s happening and so they are able to provide early intervention, This makes truck drivers who have been trained by TAT, the most important source for information out there.
Become a Hero
TAT is on a mission to train all CDL drivers in the nation on how to spot and report human trafficking. Their thinking is that there are 2.1 million CDL truck drivers in the country, if they are all trained, if every bus driver is trained, if every taxi driver, gas station employee, fast food worker, DPW worker, if all these people are trained and keeping an eye out for trafficking, the chances of shutting this business down grow exponentially.
TAT will train drivers and give them the number to call when they see something suspicious or they witness a situation that could be dangerous. The training is a short but extremely informative video, a short quiz and a great deal of information.
What to look for
Here are some things that TAT trains drivers to look for:
- A child, selling commercial sex.
- Lights in vehicles flashing in the parking lot
- CB chatter about someone trying to make a quota, talk about having to make a boyfriend or daddy happy, or someone overtly selling underage sex.
- If local drivers are unloading and they see an unaccompanied minor who looks fearful, lost, out of place.
- Tattoos or branding that mark ownership
What to ask
If drivers see something suspicious and they have time to talk to the child TAT suggests they should ask:
- Are you traveling by yourself?
- Who are you traveling with?
- When was the last time you saw your family?
- Can you come and go as you please?
Where do I look
TAT suggests that drivers keep their eyes open at all times for any kind of activity that seems wrong or out of place. They also offer these places to be especially vigilant:
- Commercial front brothels
- Residential brothels
- Street base prostitutes
- Truck stops
- Bus terminals
What should I do
If a driver sees something and feels there may be a case of trafficking happening they give these suggestions as what to do:
- First and foremost make the call. Call the 24/7 National hotline for victims and survivors of human trafficking; 1-888-3737-888. Make the call!
- Get as many details as possible: color and make of the vehicle, descriptions of the vehicle (scrapes, dents, etc.) license plate number, who was driving, descriptions of the occupants, number of girls/people in the vehicle, race, etc.
- Take any and as many pictures as possible
- If you’re at a location that has a general manager, go inside and inform that general manager that there is trafficking and prostitution going on in and around his property
- If there is law enforcement nearby, make them aware of the situation.
The call to the national hotline is vital and, it is anonymous and confidential. TAT cannot stress enough how important this call is. Do not ever try to save the victim yourself. This puts the victim in even more danger. Make the call, that’s the best move.
The national hotline wants drivers to know that it’s okay to be wrong. Drivers shouldn’t hesitate to make this very important call even if they are not 100% sure, just make the call, that’s the most important step.
TAT seeks to bring drivers and law enforcement together to make this fight against human trafficking even more successful.
Across the globe, there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking. To give that some perspective that’s more than the combined populations of the top 28 most populated cities in the United States. Imagine if the population of cities from New York to Memphis just disappeared. All of those people vanished and became part of some shady underground world. Sometimes numbers are so large, they just lose any impact, that should not be the case with human trafficking. 40 million people and most of them are children. It’s right in the title: HUMAN trafficking.
“During that time, my value as a person, as a human being became the amount of money I could make and the amount of pleasure I could give to my clients.” -Victim of Human Trafficking.
Truckers Against Trafficking has done an amazing job bringing more attention to this grievous problem. Their numbers are growing and they are keeping eyes and ears open on our roads and highways But, they need help. Human trafficking needs to be stopped and it needs the attention of all people across the globe.
Pride and TAT
At Pride, we understand the good work that TAT is doing and we know the quest to end human trafficking is something everyone needs to get behind. Pride is a proud partner of TAT and we train and certify all our drivers when they are hired. We also offer on-going training to any driver who wants it. Pride and TAT are a powerful partnership with the one goal of ending human trafficking.
For more information about what you can do to bring an end to this blight on humanity go to www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org and find out how you can help.
If you’re on the road and you see something that looks suspicious then call the national hotline: 1-8883737-888.
Every child, girl, boy, man, woman, needs to be aware and vigilant about human trafficking, you never know when or if it may suddenly hit close to home. Stop it for others before it comes into your life.
Every 30 seconds another person becomes the victim of human trafficking. It needs to stop.
Please help TAT win this war.