Williamsport, Pa. – January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month. How can we recognize the signs of human trafficking in our community and take steps to prevent it?
In our region, Route 15 is an infamous human trafficking corridor.
“The reality is that human trafficking happens everywhere – including your community,” the PA Alliance Against Trafficking in Humans Route 15 Project (PAATH15) said.
In Lycoming County, PAATH15 is one of several nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping local victims of human trafficking. Another is the Lycoming County Human Trafficking Outreach Team.
How can you recognize the signs of human trafficking?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, indicators of human trafficking in victims include:
Sudden or dramatic behavior changes
Juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts
Disorientation, confusion, signs of mental/physical abuse
Bruises in various stages of healing
Fearful, timid or submissive attitude
Signs of being denied food, water, sleep or medical care
Often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers, or someone who seems to be in control
Appearing coached on what to say
Living in unsuitable conditions
Lacking personal possessions, a stable living situation, or personal freedoms
“Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking,” the Dept. of Homeland Security said.
An estimated 40.3 million people worldwide are trapped in conditions of modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriages, according to the International Labour Organization.
Those numbers include trafficking victims in the United States.
“Through force, fraud, coercion, and sexual exploitation of minors, traffickers rob countless individuals of their dignity and freedom, splinter families, and threaten the safety of our communities,” President Donald J. Trump wrote in a Presidential Proclamation. “This month, we renew our resolve to redouble our efforts to deliver justice to all who contribute to the cruelty of human trafficking.”
Related reading: Route 15 Highway rife with sex trafficking through Lycoming County