Human Trafficking 101: See Something, Say Something

By MaryAnne Bobrow, CAF, CMM, October 9, 2018

“See something, say something” is a phrase often associated with airport security—and, with good reason. The phrase, however, is also apropos to another dangerous threat to men, women and children globally: human trafficking. Also known as modern slavery, trafficking affects people of all ages and all walks of life around the globe. Yet most of us are woefully unaware of the scope and impact of these criminal practices and what we can do to halt these activities.

Where and How Human Trafficking Occurs

According to ECPAT-USA, human trafficking is likely to occur where large gatherings are held, such as industry conventions and sporting events. Although the Super Bowl is considered the largest attraction for human traffickers, a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s Auton Lab suggests other events and industry conferences may have a larger impact than anticipated, concluding that valuable resources may have been misdirected toward the Super Bowl. Human trafficking makes no class distinctions and occurs in all social classes and among every race. Many victims believe they are romantically involved with someone, only to be manipulated and forced into prostitution. Others are lured by promises of modeling or dancing.

Earlier this year, an American Airlines agent at Sacramento International Airport questioned two girls who arrived at the ticket counter with one-way first-class tickets to New York City that had been purchased the day before. The agent notified the sheriff’s department, which interviewed the girls. The girls admitted to lying to their parents that they were staying at each other’s house. The police released the girls to their parents, admonishing the adults that had the agent not been astute, the girls would have landed in New York and been forced into a life of drugs and prostitution. Sadly, others are forced to sell sex by their parents or other family members.

Victims in the United States can be citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children and LGBTQ individuals. Globally, the International Labour Organization estimates more than 4.8 million people are forced into sexual exploitation each year.

What Event Professionals Can Do

ECPAT-USA recommends:

  • Download the TraffickCam mobile app produced by the Exchange Initiative. Simply upload up to four photos of an empty hotel room from different perspectives with the hotel name and room number. The photos are then entered into a database so trafficking videos can be compared to the photo database, and the city, hotel and room number where trafficking occurred can hopefully be identified.
  • Know the signs and report suspected trafficking. Carry an ECPAT-USA child trafficking travel indicators card with you. As you attend meetings and events, be watchful for signs of trafficking as detailed on the card.
  • Choose responsible travel companies—those who have signed The Code, short for The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.
  • Learn what is going on in your state and local community, and, if desired, join or support an organization or project that fights human trafficking.

No human being should suffer the consequences of being dragged into a life of human trafficking, no matter where they live. Human trafficking knows no boundaries as to wealth, it only looks for individuals who can be persuaded as noted in this article. See something, say something. It may save a life and/or a life of misery.

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