The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
Madison County wraps up Human Trafficking Awareness Prevention Month
WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. >> Human Trafficking Awareness Month will end in February but Madison County officials continue to combat the national problem of human trafficking on a local level. Those seeking may call 315366-2548 option 5, or ask to speak to a School and Youth Development Coordinator.
County services include the Safe Harbour Program, which offers supportive services to youth to age 21 who have been trafficked, exploited or are at risk through case management and prevention education.
The program also offers trainings to community agencies, medical facilities, schools, and the general public to raise public awareness and education on the exploitation and trafficking of youth for both sex and labor.
“I would say trafficking is not an issue in our area. It’s more of a problem in bigger cities,” Madison County Sheriff Todd Hood said. “Still we should be alert. Evil people will take advantage of others when they can.”
Concerned citizens may also help. Christine Carpenter is a retired treasury agent who is planning to open House of Hope, a place for trafficked women to find counseling and job training, as part of Rahab Ministries. She shared signs which may indicate a person is being trafficked.
“People can look for certain signs,” Carpenter said in a previous interview. “They include some obvious ones, like bruises and burn marks, and also more subtle ones like inappropriate dress in school, bragging about having a lot of money, gang symbols, and being tired all the time.”
Carpenter said strange and unusual relationships between older men and younger girls can be a sign of trafficking. The highest risk group are girls aged 1217 and then women aged 24 and older.
“I was in a second-hand store once when an older man came in to buy clothes for a young woman out in his car. He would not let her get out and said he was buying clothes so she could attend a concert. He said she was too sick to come in and look for herself. Someone ended up looking into it.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 10,359 trafficking complaints in 2021. In those situations, a total of 16,554 likely victims of trafficking were identified.
The top three types reported in 2021 were escort services,10 percent, pornography at eight percent, and illicit massage, health and beauty at eight percent.
Data shows that trafficking victims are generally recruited by someone they know. These include a family member or caregiver at 33 percent, an intimate partner at 28 percent, or an employer at 22 percent.
“If a family member or friend tries to entice you, start with an honest conversation,” Rahab Refuge Ministries Executive Assistant Manager Lindsey Kitchen said. “A boundary has been crossed by your friend or family member and you need to let them know.
“It could be something as simple as saying, Hey, this makes me really uncomfortable.’ Kitchen continued. “Let them know what your boundaries are and be firm. Learning to have a voice is important and learning how to set your boundaries is critical in formulating relationships.”
The top three recruitment locations are the internet dating sites, at 13 percent; the street, meaning strangers who promise easy money or fame at 11 percent, and Facebook at 10 percent.
“Teaching children at a young age about internet safety is very important, especially in a world so focused on social media and the internet,” Kitchen said. “There are many resources available to help teach your child about Internet and social media safety, such as ‘Thorn for Parents,’ which gives parents different topics concerning internet and tech safety and tools to help inform their children.
“‘Bark’ is a parental control tool used to monitor social media, text messages, and other activities for signs of inappropriate content and predators, keeping your child safer online,” she continued. “It is always important to inform your children never to give out their personal information online, know who your child is talking to as most of the time online chat rooms are dangerous, don’t meet up with people you meet online, and keep open communication between your child about what they are doing on the internet and who they are communicating with.”
As a whole, the study said the internet remained the top reported recruitment location. The recent migration or relocation category remained the most frequently reported risk factor or vulnerability identified, applying to 54 percent of all likely victims with a known risk factor; this also applied to 93 percent of likely victims of labor trafficking.
The top five at-risk populations included after recent migration or relocation are those with a mental or physical health concern at 10 percent, substance abuse at nine percent, unstable housing at eight percent and runaway or homeless youth at seven percent.
“These numbers should remind us how important it is to control the amount of people who cross the border,” Hood said. “They arrive here with no place to stay and no food source. We have big surges of people who have been taken advantage of. It’s always risky if you ignore legal procedures.”
That risk, Hood said, includes trafficking and exploitation.
“In Canada, a family takes you in. Here you are stuck,” he said. “People come here with no plan, no one to help them, and not knowing where will they work. These immigrants are trying to live the dream, to gain freedom. Most don’t know any better. Evil people will always prey on them. They get involved in illegal business and they can’t call police because they’re afraid they will get sent back.”