As we think about summer celebrations and days of remembrance such as Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, there are lesser known days of remembrance that do not garner as much attention. One of these is July 30, the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons declared by the United Nations.
The reader may wonder how trafficking relates to the substance use issues normally addressed in this column. Substance misuse is to connected to Human Trafficking on several levels. Thirty-six percent of trafficked youth were trafficked by family members, often to obtain drugs or money for drugs. Traffickers may also give their victims drugs to make them more compliant. People involved in substance misuse are also more vulnerable to being trafficked.
U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into labor, services, or commercial sex acts against their will. The most frequent definition of trafficking requires there must be an action, means and purpose. The action of trafficking includes recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting a person. The means could be through force, fraud or coercion. The purpose of trafficking could be for labor, services, or commercial sex conduct.
According to the July 2020 issue of Trauma Times, a publication of Indiana State Dept of Health, human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world, generating roughly $150.2 billion worldwide. The US State Department estimates that twenty-seven million people worldwide are victims of some form of human trafficking, but because trafficking is an illegal underground issue; it is incredibly complex and underreported.
The Polaris Project (Polarisproject.org) states that more than 10,000 cases of human trafficking were reported in the United States in 2018. Eighty three percent of trafficking victims in the United States are US citizens.
This may seem like a faraway problem that doesn’t happen locally. The Indiana 2016 Attorney General’s Report on Human Trafficking indicates that there were 170 trafficked youth in Indiana in that year alone. Indiana is considered a hub for trafficking because of our central location and ease of access through interstate highways. Indianapolis hosts major sporting events such as Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, NCAA championship games and even the Super Bowl in 2012, which create opportunities for trafficking. During Super Bowl XLVI, authorities initiated 168 human trafficking investigations.
In a recent presentation to the Indiana Youth Institute, Morgan Donatelli-Bow from Indiana Youth Services Association stated that Human Trafficking has been reported in every county in Indiana.
Trafficking is affecting our country, state and county in ways you might not suspect. Next time we will discuss myths and misconceptions surrounding human trafficking.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or notice suspicious activity, call the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans hot line: 888-373-7888, the ICE tip line: 866-347-2423, or text HELP to BeFree (233733).
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.