Condensation built up on the windows of a cold February morning. Trapped in a car, blindfolded, stimulated feelings of fear and deceit from her buyer. This survivor knew where she was, though all she could see was black.
She had driven this route a million times–the route to home. She was passing her home, but trapped with no means to communicate to her loved ones. This anonymous survivor was trafficked in her home town across the border into Mexico until ex-Navy seals were able to track her down.
This trafficking victim is one of many, but is a testimony that there is hope for rescue.
KID Newsradio in Idaho Falls is holding an event called “Emancipation: Disrupting the Modern Slave Trade“ on March 14 to help the community learn how to stop and prevent human trafficking in the area. It will be held at Hillcrest Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.
Human sex trafficking is an industry that accumulates approximately $99 billion annually by buying, selling, trading and transporting adults and children for forced sexual work. According to the FBI, human trafficking is the third largest criminal offense in the world.
According to humantraffickinghotline.org, Eastern Idaho is not immune to human trafficking. As of June 30, 2017, Idaho alone recieved 44 calls from victims or anonymous callers to the trafficking hotline and six reported cases of human trafficking.
“There could be a teenager being sold through Craigslist, and his mother might have no idea,” said Sydney Jensen, KID news producer, event organizer and a senior studying communication. “The best way to disrupt human trafficking is to simply talk about it.”
Jensen has created numerous podcasts at KID Newsradio and has found that people who run away from home are at the biggest risk in Idaho.
“People who are forced, abused, manipulated, have mental problems and more, find themselves bonded because there are so many ways to get into sex trafficking and only one way out,” Jensen said. “But when we talk about it, it gives traffickers less power.”
In January, House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane proposed a bill that would make patronizing a prostitute a felony, according to the Idaho Statesman. Soliciting a prostitute is currently a misdemeanor until the third offense. If passed, Idaho would be the first state to charge a felony for the first offense.
Some legislators, including Rep. Greg Chaney, have expressed concern that the bill is a statement rather than a solution, and that the bill focuses on all prostitution rather than forced sex work, according to the legislative minutes. The bill will hold a revote after representatives hear from courts and law enforcement.
Legislators and law makers are not the only ones who are taking action in disrupting the trafficking movement.
Tyler Schwab, a BYU-Idaho alumnus, started his own non-profit organization called Gifts of Grace after witnessing and hearing about sex trafficking while serving a mission in the Dominican Republic.
“Jesus commands all of us to look and care for the oppressed, poor and vulnerable so it is my faith that motivates me to watch over and care for God’s children,” Schwab said.
Schwab’s foundation helps women and children know how to be aware of the signs and prevent sex slavery in the Dominican Republic. Schwab observed while abroad that these locals are lied to and coerced into sex slavery by men offering them education and money.
Schwab is also a part of Operation Underground Railroad that rescues and ensures care for victims. Former CIA, FBI, Navy Seals and others infiltrate areas and rescue women and children. There are Operation Underground Railroad volunteer groups in Rexburg, Idaho Falls and Rigby that anyone can be a part of to disrupt human sex trafficking happening in the surrounding areas.
“This is a huge issue, far bigger than people realize,” said Emily Doerfler, a team leader and creator of the Florida Orlando chapter.
In January of this year, Doerfler made note that O.U.R. rescued its 1000th survivor. For anyone who wants to volunteer or hear more success stories, there is a textline that will message updates on current missions. Just text 51555.
The Emancipation: Disrupting the Modern Slave Trade will be a free community conversation about protecting individuals, families and communities from the dangers of human sex trafficking.
For more information about volunteering, go to http://ourrescue.org.
Listen to Luci Garner’s interview with BYU-Idaho Radio here.