Human trafficking hits close to home

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Human trafficking hits close to home


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Most people think slavery was abolished a long time ago, especially in America. Sadly, that’s not true as human trafficking is the modern incarnation of slavery.

A human trafficker can be thought of as a vicious monster, but reality is, they have double lives. They can be charismatic, appear friendly and trustworthy. They can have families of their own. They can also be women, 30% of traffickers globally are women. “My trafficker was someone I trusted and my family trusted. Most people who are trafficked have been groomed in some way by their trafficker before the trafficking begins,” said Deborah Pembrook, a representative from the Rape Crisis Center in Monterey County, and victim of human trafficking since early elementary until 17.  A human trafficker can be someone you know or have made contact with at any moment in your life.

There have been 1,305 human trafficking cases in California reported so far this year, based on the National Human Trafficking Hotline.  Two of these reported cases have been investigated here in Salinas. One was a sex trafficking ring, the other one was a possibility of an agricultural trafficking ring. Although these cases have been investigated and there have been arrests, KSBW reports that “Police said they anticipate making even more arrests, and finding additional victims.” Sadly, not every case is reported.

Human trafficking rings are more than just forced sex labor, they can come in many forms, like the agricultural trafficking ring being investigated here in Salinas. The sex trafficking ring is heartbreaking because the victims who were fortunately rescued had ages that ranged from 14-18. Besides being forced to perform sex labor, they were drugged and photographed almost naked for a social media page whose sole purpose was to find clients. These victims were kidnapped right here in Salinas.

However, Salinas residents are not the only ones in danger. In the alleged agricultural human trafficking ring, 10 foreign nationals were found in the marijuana farm that is being investigated for working and living conditions.

Awareness can and should start at schools since students spend most of their time at school. They should be aware of what’s going on in their community, but many students had not heard of either trafficking case being investigated in Salinas.

It’s essential for teens to be aware of what is going on in their community because of the 1,305 cases reported in California, 378 of those involve minors. There were 8,524 cases reported in the U.S. in 2017. The year before that, it was 7,565 cases and the year before was 5,575. Based on these statistics so far, the cases have increased every year.

Human traffickers are very meticulous about their methods. There are scams that traffickers use to lure people. They use random numbers that will text people to click on a link and it allegedly puts a tracker on you when you click on the link. Some job opportunities that sound too good to be true can also be a scam. Some red flags are if the job opportunities have no age restriction, they’re not answering their phone line, and they offer travel.

Another example of a job opportunity could be a modeling contract. Rachel Thomas, a survivor, was forced into human trafficking at a modeling interview. They used the contact information they gathered from her to threaten to hurt her family if she didn’t cooperate. It is advised to take precautions with sketchy numbers that try to reach out to you or job opportunities that make it seem like it’s not really a job.

There are also some warning signs if people around you are a victim of human trafficking. Those warning signs may include having access to a lot of money, lots of phones, being excessively exhausted, and being fearful when everything’s okay, but feeling safe when in danger or being in a high risk situation.

There are ways to help starting now. One way is by changing the way we talk about human trafficking and start to talk about it more. Human trafficking is not prostitution. Human trafficking is a crime against a person. “Traffickers don’t tell you that they are traffickers. They can pretend to be a friend or boyfriend or girlfriend. Knowing the manipulation can make it easier to spot,” Pembrook.

The reality is we can’t exactly put a specific face to a human trafficker, but we can be vigilant about what’s going on in our community. Human trafficking happens more often and locally than we think. Just like how anyone can be a human trafficker, anyone can be a victim.

If you or anyone you know is going through anything similar, please contact 1-888-373-7888.

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