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This week I address the two questions I’m most frequently asked about human trafficking, “what do I do if I suspect there is human trafficking or I think I know a victim of human trafficking” and “what help is there for victims?”

The first question is simple. Call the National Trafficking Hotline 1(888)-373-7888, text BeFree, or call the Federal Law Enforcement Agency of Homeland Security 1-(866)-347-2423 or locate your country’s hotline number. Do not try to solve a situation yourself. If you are not a professional, do not try to advise or counsel a victim.

The answer to the second question is “not enough.” Still, the good news is that more help is becoming available by creating awareness and funding opportunities like the Department of Justice. Domestic and sexual abuse organizations have resources to direct inquiries regarding therapy, reintegration into a community, shelter, and additional education and skill development opportunities. The Office on Trafficking in Persons has a resource page, especially for counselors and agencies (

What else is helpful to know about human trafficking?

•  That only men and gangs are involved with human trafficking is a dangerous falsehood. It causes us to overlook obvious situations and not believe victims. For example, one of my colleagues was sold by his grandmother. Another young boy was forced to perform for videos that his mother sold and also sold him to perform sexual acts. Women of all ages, statuses, and nationalities may be ring leaders.

•  Only those in poverty are victims of trafficking is false. Any time you have one person with power over another opens the door to being trafficked. Educated, affluent young girls, women, and vulnerable young boys and men may be victims of exploitation, but that doesn’t mean poverty isn’t a factor. Poverty and low income play a significant role, especially in under-served countries and neighborhoods.


•  Traffickers, as we’ve seen in the notable Jeffery Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell cases, might be doctors, lawyers, professors, business professionals, athletic directors, guidance counselors, accountants, or stay-at-home parents, just as readily as a gang leader.

•  Knowledge is power. Knowledge doesn’t mean living in fear. It means arming yourself with tools and skills to address a need. A victim faces more fear than imaginable than is created by knowledge.

•  “There’s no data to prove human trafficking exists or if it does, it’s only in cities.” This attitude is what we faced decades ago with drug trafficking. Look where that got us. The same is true of human trafficking. If those of us working to create awareness in Maine just 10 years ago had believed the crime was expanding in Maine, we wouldn’t have the issue with which we are now faced. It takes time and funding to collect data, and it’s changed by the time you have it, so why not listen and be curious? Additionally, human trafficking is of the nature that it’s significantly under-reported.

Drug and human trafficking are closely related crimes.

There’s much we all can do to create awareness and help put an end to human trafficking. Next week I’ll touch on a few suggestions.

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