5 Things I Learned About Human Trafficking as an Intern

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Before interning at BridgeHope, an organization the combats vulnerabilities with technology to help survivors thrive, I had a very limited idea of what human trafficking looked like. My image consisted mostly of Taken with Liam Neeson and news reports of kidnapped teenage girls. From my work at BridgeHope and education I sought on my own, I discovered how much I didn’t know about trafficking.

It Happens Everywhere

Human trafficking does happen in far-away countries where people are stolen from their homes. That is a very real and serious problem. However, especially in the United States, we have a much more prevalent type of human trafficking. People (women and men) who live mostly normal lives are blackmailed or coerced into “working” for a trafficker. These seemingly average people are then moved all over the country (and sometimes the world) to be sold. It was so scary to hear the stories of people that could have been a family member, friend, or neighbor that was whisked into “the life”.

It Can Happen to Anyone

Teenagers. Adults. Men. Women. Kids. Human trafficking doesn’t avoid any segment of the population. Whether people are forced into labor, sex work, or other activities, anyone can be a target. However, the more vulnerable someone is, the higher chance they have of falling victim to trafficking. For example, someone who is homeless, lacks a source of income, or has a questionable immigration status all have vulnerabilities that make it more likely for them to become a victim.

Men are Impacted, too

When most people think of human trafficking, they think of women snatched from their lives into an awful new reality. Although this does happen, men are almost just as likely to be a victim of trafficking. Whether that’s through forced labor or sex work, men are frequently trafficked. Another untrue stereotype is that men are always the pimp. Women often coerce other women into a life of trafficking. More awareness needs to be brought to male survivors—BridgeHope is the first mentorship program for male survivors of human trafficking in Colorado.

Resource Coordination for Survivors is Lacking

Many organizations throughout the country, and the world, exist to provide resources to survivors of trafficking. However, after a survivor is rescued by law enforcement, there is often difficulty getting these resources to the survivor. Whether they need a place to stay, a mode of transportation, or a new job, there is a lot of disconnect between survivors and the resources that are available. This is why BridgeHope is working on an app called BridgeNow. The goal of BridgeNow is to provide resources to survivors in almost real-time, rather than having them have to wait precious days or weeks.

Vulnerability Reduction Helps Survivors

To prevent a survivor from falling back into the hands of traffickers, which is, unfortunately, often the case, their vulnerabilities need to be reduced. If a survivor doesn’t know how or isn’t able to survive on their own, they feel forced to turn back to being trafficked. In order to successfully rescue survivors, they need to receive resources that help them transition back to a normal life.

Human trafficking is a serious problem that needs to be combatted in our society. Many organizations exist with the goal of ending trafficking, and they need your help to stop it.

Written by: Brock Mullen (Summer 2019 Intern)