Human Trafficking #2

Yesterday I attended the Pathways Church Social Justice Group mini-conference on Human Trafficking (you rock, Pathways). I left feeling very hopeful. All the speakers who represented both faith based and non-faith based groups were very savvy and passionate about the issues and provided a wonderful start to our needed education. They had very practical means of addressing the issues both for raising awareness during the Democratic National Convention and for rescuing trafficked people and connecting them to the services they need. And of course, their passion for this tragic issue will continue far beyond the DNC.

We have had people call the church and Street’s Hope in shock and perhaps more than a little ticked at the fact that there could possibly be 40,000 people trafficked into Denver this month for the forced sex and forced labor trade. They thought we were making this up. As I have posted before, those numbers come from the Denver Police as well as other law enforcement agencies, including federal agencies. But I understand their shock. It’s hard to believe that slavery still exists but it does, in yet another utterly dehumanizing form. And so we lean in. What better place to meet Jesus face to face than in the people he most identified with – the poor, desperate, oppressed, rejected and imprisoned.

My good friend Becky Pierson has written a great post on human trafficking with helpful links to learn more about this issue at 

If you are not fully aware of what human trafficking is, she quotes the definition created by the UN (also posted on the Stop the Traffik website):

“Trafficking in human beings” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. – Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (Palmero Protocol)

She also includes other great stuff and links to the websites of some of the groups dedicated to this battle so I won’t repeat it all. Links include Stop The TraffikPolaris (click on Action if you’d like to help), Not For Sale , Praxus, Human Trafficking Project, which is a great blog and of course, our own Street’s Hope. I will add, whose representative, Phil Gazley also presented incredibly powerful and practical information at the conference yesterday.

Some more gleanings from the conference:

CoNEHT (Colorado Network to End Human Trafficking) which is a networking group for all these organizations and more gives this advice for us regular folks:

People most vulnerable to trafficking include

  • Undocumented persons
  • Persons involved in Prostitution
  • Minors not residing with a legal guardian
  • Persons experiencing homelessness (includes runaways!)
  • Persons whose place of residence is not Colorado.

Phil Gazley adds info to help recognize them:

  • Unfamiliar with culture and language
  • Very afraid of outsiders (traffickers often frighten them into believing that they will be reported and deported, or will abuse them if they connect with outsiders)
  • Evidence of psychological abuse (extreme fear or depression) or physical and sexual abuse
  • Unaware of rights
  • Documentation taken away
  • Fear for safety of families back home

He also adds that in addition to the fear instilled by the traffickers, the shame of having been duped by the promise of a good job (or whatever carrot was dangled before them) may keep an enslaved person from easily admitting their situation. If you suspect that someone might be a victim, you can ask general questions conversationally such as, why did you come to this country, how many hours do you work, when was your last vacation, where do you shop, etc., in order to assess their freedom of movement. Trafficked slaves are highly controlled and have no little or no freedom to go places and do things, nor free time to do as they please.

If you even suspect a person or persons to be trafficked, call 1-866-455-5075.

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