Week 3: STOP-IT Humans Against Trafficking Campaign

By now, you know that we canvassed the Chicagoland area to find out just what the public knows about human trafficking. Here is what week three looks like on Facebook and Instagram. Raise awareness with us with the hashtag#humansagainsttrafficking! 

“Being an athletic trainer in a high school, I’ve seen that youth are sometimes willing to go along with anyone that is willing to accept them and make them feel good about themselves. They want to be accepted by other people (especially when they’re around other people). It seems like they are more susceptible to falling into unsafe situations because of this.” – Sarah, ATC (Athletic Trainer Certified)

THE FACTS: Traffickers do take advantage of a persons’ existing desires and needs, whether that be the want for love, the want for understanding, or the want for acceptance. They also maximize their advantage by pointing out that they are the only ones satisfying these needs (especially if the youth lacks family support), which often lends itself to an “us versus the world” type of situation that makes leaving all the more difficult. 

“People who fall victim to human trafficking could look like the person next-door or the woman that you see in the grocery store. I feel like it’s hard to tell at times if somebody is being exploited because it’s not always black-and-white. I think college campus communities can do a lot to be prepared. I think that this is a conversation that should be had because we never know who’s being tricked into this kind of life.” – Mason, Fundraising Coordinator

THE FACTS: Learning the signs is an important first step to identifying situations of human trafficking. Some of these indicators include: evidence of being controlled, evidence of an inability to move or leave a job, signs of physical or emotional abuse, not speaking on one’s own behalf, unusual work restrictions, not in control of one’s own money, secrecy about whereabouts, keeping unusual hours or living with coworkers or employers, unpaid for work or paid very little, a tattoo, no identifying information (a passport, state ID or otherwise), use of lingo from ‘the life’, unaccounted for time, and persistent fear or hyper vigilant behavior. Take a look at a more complete list here: http://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs

“I have suspected trafficking victims in the ER and on our inpatient psychiatric unit. Compounded trauma is very nuanced for children and adolescents; it can impede their overall development and impact their social and academic functioning. In any case of trauma, working individually with the child in psychotherapy sessions can lead to effective outcomes. Medications can be used in conjunction with therapy for more severe presentations. But child psychiatry is not simply about treatment of the child, it is also about helping caregivers and teachers recognize how trauma can manifest in their settings. ” – Dr. Shahabuddin, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow Physician

THE FACTS: Because trafficking situations are often not one traumatic experience, but multiple compounded traumatic experiences, the trauma can be severe. Many survivors have already experienced some form of abuse prior to the trafficking situation. Trauma bonds also develop in these situations, which can make it that much more challenging to leave. Mental health services are critical to help survivors process and work through their experiences so they can move forward with their lives. 

“When I think of human trafficking I think of illegal underground operations stealing young girls and boys from their homes and selling them as slaves. It makes me really sad to think about the physical, sexual, and mental abuse they must go through. I can’t imagine what that would be like, and I’m sure most of them are scarred for life, even if rescued.” – Lisa, Phlebotomist/Nursing Student

THE FACTS: We’ve mentioned it already, but it is important to reiterate that most human trafficking does not occur by physical force or by kidnapping kids from their homes. In fact, most situations of both sex and labor trafficking begin by exploitation of a vulnerability, whether that be the want of a better life, what seems like a promising opportunity, or the desire to be loved and needed. The trauma trafficking survivors endure as a result of a trafficking situation is no doubt complex; it can require years to truly process and recover from their experiences. But it is also important to note that survivors are extremely resilient and have moved forward to rebuild their lives and thrive in spite of the victimization they have endured. 

Raise awareness with us by sharing our blog posts and photos on Facebook and Instagram (@sastopit) with the hashtag #humansagainsttrafficking!

Better yet, take what you’ve learned and invest it in programming for survivors.
STOP-IT has provided comprehensive, trauma-informed case management services to over 200 survivors of sex and labor trafficking over the years. We also operate a biweekly drop-in space for female identified youth who may have had to trade sex to survive, and a 24-hour hotline to provide ongoing crisis response. Help us continue to serve those exploited and victimized in situations of sex and labor trafficking by donating here.

If you’d rather donate to a survivor directly, participate in our annual STOP-IT Holiday Giving Tree. More details can be found here. 

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