Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

The news is full of disturbing reports about people being stalked by strangers in stores, parking lots or other public venues.

While some instances are truly unsettling to experience or behold, people often reach one comparable conclusion: it must be human trafficking. Human Trafficking, as defined by Kansas Law, K.S.A. 21-5426(a), is “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjecting the person to involuntary servitude or forced labor.”

Most human trafficking victims identify a family member or intimate partner as their captor. In most other cases, traffickers carefully groom their victims for a significant period of time before selling them commercially to interested buyers. This process begins by the trafficker developing a relationship with their chosen target, making them feel loved, wanted and ultimately respected. Once the trafficker has gained the victim’s trust, the second and most commonly reported phase begins: grooming.

Unfortunately, grooming often involves threatening or abusive behavior in the form of sexual assaults, beatings, confiscating identifying documents, slave labor and sleep deprivation among other things. Traffickers maintain control over their subject(s) by providing protection, shelter, food and other basic amenities to give the twisted, false appearance they somehow care about these individuals.

Eerily similar to domestic violence, traffickers use power and intimidation to manipulate their victims without refrain, thus impacting their ability to think rationally.

Human trafficking exists in nearly every facet of modern society and lives right here in our quiet, rural community. And because evidence of these horrific crimes varies from the subtle to the undeniable, clues can be found just about anywhere.

Signs of human trafficking include, but are not limited to, physical injuries and abuse, minimal eye contact and social interaction, the inability to deviate from a scripted message or speak for themselves, lacking personal identification, appearing destitute or possessing few personal items, working excessively long hours, living at their place of employment, small children working in a family restaurant, young adults traveling with people unrelated to them and having multiple visitors at a hotel, unique tattoos or branding marks, untreated sexually transmitted diseases, excessive security measures such as barbwire fences, bars on windows to keep anyone from leaving a building, not allowing people to go in public alone, visible fear of a partner and the sudden onset of mental illness or drug addiction.

Any single one of these behaviors or peculiar circumstances can be an ominous warning sign of a much larger injustice.

If you or anyone you may know suspects human trafficking, contact law enforcement immediately with as many pertinent details as possible. However, due to the potential danger and unpredictable nature of these international operations, SOS does not encourage the community to approach an alleged trafficker. SOS encourages the community to remain vigilant of their surroundings, to engage in open, honest conversations with our children, and to report any suspicious behavior to authorities.

Together, we can help end human trafficking. Anyone with questions or concerns about human trafficking may contact SOS at 343-8799. The greatest cost of caring is saving a human life.

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