Human trafficking, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines as the "use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some form of labor or commercial sex act," is a grave human rights violation that takes place in almost every country in the world. Yet, many are unaware of its massive presence in their cities, regions, and countries.
On October 14, I was happy to join Amy Barzdukas, Chief Marketing Officer at Omnitracs, to discuss how truckers can work with Truckers Against Trafficking to combat human trafficking. Truckers Against Trafficking has been focused on working with the trucking, bus, and energy industries in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to train and educate allies to identify, report, and help prevent human trafficking.
If you weren't able to attend the webinar, have no fear. Below, I'm sharing some key takeaways that will help anyone looking to be an ally in the trucking industry and beyond.
First, understand the scope of trafficking
In numbers, here is how grave and present human trafficking is in our world today:
- The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40 million victims of human trafficking on a global scale.
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports trafficking is occurring in all 50 states.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 in 7 runaway cases have likely been victims of child sex trafficking.
Traffickers use many tactics to trap victims. The most effective means is coercion, in which traffickers will threaten someone's safety, family members, or even reputation to force that person into their grasp. This can encompass anything from telling a teenage girl they'll post a video of her online if she doesn't do what they say to scaring an immigrant by telling them they'll attempt to have them deported.
Inherent racism is all around us, and the same applies to human trafficking. Human trafficking victims are disproportionately women and girls of color, and the majority of the buyers of these women and girls are older, white men.
Why truckers are essential in the fight against trafficking
Due to truckers' sheer number on the road and the nature and extensive travel involved in commercial trucking, truck drivers can serve as incredibly valuable eyes and ears for law enforcement and organizations like Truckers Against Trafficking.
For the transportation industry, truck stops and areas dominated by truckers are especially critical places to identify trafficking, as it's easier to spot children and adults walking around, knocking on cab doors, and talking about making a quota. Truckers are indeed the eyes and ears of our nation's highways, so they are some of the best people to notice when something looks out of place.
Here's how you can make a difference and become an ally
So far, Truckers Against Trafficking has trained over 933,000 truckers. Calls from truckers to the National Human Trafficking Hotline have led to the identification of 1,278 victims of human trafficking. Whether you're a fleet manager looking to involve your teams in this initiative or an individual trucker looking to make a difference, you can join the movement once you complete the free Truckers Against Trafficking training, complete with helpful learning materials.
In addition to completing the training, here are some critical takeaways to keep in mind about combatting trafficking on the road:
- Encourage respectful and empathetic language in your circles: Derogatory terms like 'lot lizard' — a common term in transportation circles — are incredibly difficult for victims to hear. Trafficked victims already feel dehumanized, and many also deal with immense feelings of unworthiness. Positive and respectful language better ensures that victims feel more worthy and safe in your presence.
- Talk and talk some more: Combatting human trafficking begins in our communities and homes. Children especially need to hear about this issue from someone they trust so they can protect themselves and spread the message.
- Take caution: Truck drivers should not directly intervene if they spot a potential human trafficking victim. Instead, they should immediately contact law enforcement. This not only protects drivers, but it also protects victims against rage from their traffickers.
To learn more about how you can combat human trafficking on the road, send us an email at TAT.email@example.com or visit our website. You can also tune in to the full webinar for more essential takeaways.