by Pride Transport | Mar 16, 2021
Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is not some distant, third world problem. It’s a global epidemic that impacts everyone, and it’s happening all around us. Unfortunately, due to the nature of transporting traffic victims, truckers are much more likely to come across traffickers.
Traffickers are transient and take their victims where the need is. Our professional drivers are out there on the road, where many victims are. This puts a massive burden on already hard-working drivers. Truck drivers are quickly becoming the heroes on the forefront of rescuing victims and identifying human trafficking patterns and operations.
This is certainly a huge undertaking for drivers, but protecting the lives of innocent women and children is something the entire Pride family takes very seriously. Pride Transport is dedicated to training our staff and drivers to recognize trafficking victims and have a fundamental knowledge on the resources and methods needed to help.
We understand how overwhelming this can be, after all, it often comes down to just
one kind stranger noticing something isn’t right and taking action. Sometimes it just takes being aware to make the biggest difference. With that in mind, we’re outlining some of the ways you can help fight trafficking while out on the road.
The Reality of Human Trafficking
Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim of human trafficking or as it’s known colloquically, the underground sex trade. But this isn’t just someone. It’s often a child. In fact, up to 300,000 Americans under the age of 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. Most of the girls who are kidnapped and indoctrinated into the sex trafficking world are between 13-15 years old. This someone is an innocent kid with a worried family, and blank future.
Sex trafficking is modern day slavery. Point blank. Children are captured and forced into prostitution. They are raped, threatened, beaten, and usually forced into drug addiction. Often, in order to keep them psychologically trapped, the lives of their family are threatened.
The depressing reality is that for traffickers, children are much easier to control. They’re vulnerable. They’re still finding their way in the world and 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, or other issues and circumstances they can exploit.
This is the exact type of vulnerabilities traffickers seek out. These aren’t one-off instances, human trafficking is a savvy and smart organization. They know that most girls coming from these negative circumstances will respond best to a father figure, therefore a pimp or trafficker will make a victim call them Daddy. This works toward breaking down any idea of a family or father 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.
The Myth of Trafficking as Prostitution
One of the primary hurdles for human trafficking activists is to dispel the myth that children and young adults become prostitutes because they want to. No child wakes up thinking, yes, I’d like to be abused today. Beaten, scared, and alone.
While some women may choose prostitution as a profession, or temporary means of earning money, there is a giant difference between the exchange of sex for money, drugs or influence between two consenting adults (where consent can be given) and someone who is being forced into this role.
Human trafficking means there is third party control. It means that someone is making money on the backs of individuals- often children- who are having to perform dozens of sexual acts, all while being abused physically, sexually, and mentally.
The other hurdle activists must try to overcome is getting people to understand the cycle of abuse. As with any abusive relationship, slavery, or trafficking ring, the abuser keeps control of their victims by limiting, or completely restricting, their ability to socialize with others, speak to family members, have access to their own money, or have much awareness with the outside world. Similarly, keeping them addicted to drugs helps pad in an extra layer of dependency.
When people encounter young girls at rest stops selling their bodies, the idea that they chose this life blinds them to the reality of the situation. In reality, there is a pimp or other third party not far away, holding them hostage, forcing the child to go truck to truck selling themselves. The child is imprisoned into an abusive cycle and likely suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Under these circumstances, escape is nearly impossible.
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.
The primary goal of TAT is to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize members of the trucking industry to combat human trafficking. Many of the venues of choice for sex traffickers, places like hotels, motels, or bars, are also the places frequented most by truck drivers. This is why educated truck drivers are so invaluable, they go where most trafficking happens and they can become the eyes and ears of anti-trafficking campaigns.
What Can You Do To Help?
Let’s face it, this article has been pretty depressing to read. Believe us, it was equally depressing to write. While fighting human trafficking may seem like an insurmountable task, there are concrete ways truck drivers can make a difference. Keep in mind that saving the life of even one child is a heroic task. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can help.
Understand The Problem
Never underestimate the power of being informed and educated. It will be nearly impossible to make any real world change unless you are knowledgeable about the issue at hand. Read up on the patterns and tactics of human trafficking. Read the stories of survivors. Take a virtual tour of the Freedom Drivers Project (FDP). Most importantly, challenge yourself and your world views as often as you can. If you ever find yourself thinking, “but why don’t they just leave the situation?” try to check yourself. Evaluate why you think that way and try to put yourself in their shoes instead. Similarly, stop thinking about this issue as numbers and statistics but real children, no different than your own.
When you’re on the road the most important thing you can do is be alert and observant about your surroundings. This is a good approach for safe driving already, but take this into consideration when you’re out of your truck, at rest stops, hotels, fast food restaurants, or other similar locations.
Even if a young girl or woman doesn’t seem in distress or propositioning you, try to remember the color/style of their clothes, hair, or other distinguishing features like tattoos or scars. Take notice if they’re with someone and that person’s appearance too. This might come in handy when you have information regarding potential missing persons.
In addition, you always want to keep an eye out for visible signs of abuse or human trafficking. While there can be many indicators, be on the lookout for:
A child selling commercial sex
An unaccompanied minor who looks fearful, lost, or out of place
A child dressed provocatively
A child with signs of physical abuse, such as burn marks, bruises, or cuts
Lights in vehicles flashing in parking lots
A child with poor or limited knowledge of English language
Indications of drug abuse
Victims who look in poor health, or dressed poorly (ex: summer clothes in cold weather)
Knocking sounds from the inside of drayage containers, vans or moving trucks
As you’re being observant and alert, if you see something suspicious TAT recommends you calmly ask the child some questions, such as:
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 you sleep and eat?
What are your living conditions like?
Are you being forced to do anything you don’t want to do?
As we outlined previously, understanding the problem is paramount to inspiring change. Once you’ve educated yourself on the patterns and behaviors of traffickers and their victims, try to pass on that knowledge as best you can. Inform your friends, family, and most importantly, other truckers, about the realities of human trafficking. In addition, share ways they can help.
Taking an active, informed stance on this issue is one of the most impactful ways you can inspire change. This means not just spreading awareness but helping to dispel the myths that surround human trafficking. For instance, if you catch a colleague saying something like, “if they wanted to leave they could, it’s their own fault,” take that as an opportunity to help educate them on the difficult psychological realities of being trafficked.
Seek Professional Training
If you want to be as informed and helpful as possible, look into professional training offered by groups such as TAT. They will also provide information about other ways to get involved. Encourage your co-workers and company to provide mandatory training programs to all truck drivers.
Think you see something suspicious?
If you’re on the road and you see something that looks suspicious there are a few key, time sensitive things you can do:
Immediately call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is staffed 24/7 with trained operators who can relay information to local law enforcement and look for trends to turn over to the FBI.
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 them 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
It can be challenging to stand by and watch this happen, but it’s important that you never try to save the victim yourself. This puts the victim in even more danger. The best thing you can do is follow the advice above and call the national hotline.