Even though National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month has come to an end, focus still remains on how law enforcement, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and concerned individuals can identify and respond to cases of human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign is the lead effort to combat human trafficking. Working with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
DHS advocates using a victim-centered approach. It can be difficult for first responders or concerned citizens to know how to best help suspected victims of human trafficking. When encountering a potential victim, it is important to remember they may not be comfortable coming forward and working with law enforcement. The victim might need time, patience and cultural sensitivity to feel stable, safe and secure before speaking with authorities.
Trafficking victims may:
- Fear law enforcement;
- Not identify themselves as a victim;
- Not tell a complete story, or use rehearsed responses; or
- Identify with the trafficker.
First responders never know if they will encounter a human trafficking situation when responding to a call. Often times, victims are thought to be only foreign nationals or victims of sex exploitation. It is imperative to address common misconceptions during training and general awareness campaigns for all emergency response agencies that may encounter different types of human trafficking incidents. Victims are often hidden in plain sight.
There are many resources available to concerned individuals and first responders alike. Shoe cards contain phone numbers and information that can be discreetly passed to a victim that may be hidden for later reference. Human trafficking awareness training can provide insight into the complexities of the problem and provide tools for educators.
Victims of human trafficking rings arriving from overseas locations may be isolated and have little knowledge of English. For first responders trying to identify a suspected victim’s country of origin and locating an interpreter, the “I Speak…” poster can help by allowing the victim to point to their native language.
Pamphlets for information on the Blue Campaign are available for download and distribution.
Have you witnessed human trafficking? Call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tip line: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or fill out the anonymous form online. To learn more, follow the Blue Campaign on DHS’ Twitter Account or #BlueCampaign.