Guest blogger Darci recently graduated from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration with her Masters in Social Work, and currently works in an anti-trafficking organization in Chicago. She has volunteered, interned, and worked at her campus rape crisis center as well as the rape crisis center serving the Seacoast. Darci is very passionate about women’s issues, ending violence against women, and portraying women with dignity and respect in the media. She blogs at www.iamafeministnowwhat.wordpress.com.
In early August, the Polaris Project released a report ranking the states on their response to human trafficking. This report is similar to the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released by the U.S. government as a tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. Similarly, the Polaris Project’s report on the United States ranked states by tier determined by a point system. The tier descriptions are as follows:
Tier 1 (7+ points): State has passed significant laws to combat human trafficking, and should continue to take steps to improve and implement its laws.
Tier 2 (5-6): State has passed numerous laws to combat human trafficking, and should take more steps to improve and implement its laws.
Tier 3 (3-4): State has made nominal efforts to pass laws to combat human trafficking, and should take major steps to improve and implement its laws.
Tier 4 (0-2): These “Faltering Four” states have not made nominal efforts to enact a basic legal framework to combat human trafficking, and should actively work to improve their laws.
Wyoming was ranked the lowest in the country based on its lack of state laws used to combat human trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and support survivors; the state does not have any laws that specifically address trafficking. Wyoming officials, however, have responded to the report and believe that the state’s system of referring trafficking cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the federal level is sufficient. Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips thinks that it makes more sense to “leverage the resources” to the federal level because Wyoming sees so few cases of human trafficking. According to Jim Anderson, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wyoming, the state has only seen two sex-trafficking cases in the past five years.
Wyoming shares the sentiment of most Americans, that since human trafficking doesn’t happen (often) in their backyard, they don’t really have to worry about it. Despite only seeing two cases of sex trafficking in five years, it cannot be assumed that human trafficking is not happening more often in Wyoming. This is an extremely hidden crime conducted by strategic and organized traffickers who are motivated by power and money. Furthermore, sex trafficking is not the only type of trafficking. Labor trafficking is very common and often harder to identify, given that your waitress, the woman doing your nails, or the person checking you into your hotel could be a victim of trafficking but appear as though he or she is working just like you or I work every day. Although only two cases have come up in half a decade, I assure you that human trafficking is happening at higher rates in Wyoming.
Without proper laws or responses to human trafficking, however, these situations will not be identified. Still, state laws are not the be-all-end-all. As any policy guru knows, implementation is a huge barrier to combating any crime, especially human trafficking. In order for implementation to properly occur, the community and its professionals (i.e. law enforcement, social service providers, child protection workers, attorneys, and medical professionals) must be adequately trained on how to identify victims and what services need to be provided to ensure a safe, healthy recovery from extreme trauma. Indeed, state laws would give the community the push to educate and train its citizens and professionals alike.
There are several signs to look for when assessing if a person is a victim of human trafficking. Below are just a few:
- Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash
- Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time
- Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants
- Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease
- Heavy security on worksite – unnecessary or unusual security
- Person lives and works on the premise
- Signs of assault, restraint, or malnourishment
- Does not have their documents (immigration documents, social security cards, birth certificates)
- Paid little and works long hours without breaks
- Lack of knowledge of the community they live in