Human Trafficking: Not in my neighborhood… or is it?

November 7, 2017

Do you know how to avoid being a victim of human trafficking? Human trafficking is the forced exploitation of people for labor or sexual relations. Human Trafficking is big business; it’s a $32 billion dollar per year industry and is the second-fastest-growing criminal activity in the United States.

Traffickers are not picky about their victims and their only concern is about how much money they can make. Victims of human trafficking can be anyone, including children, teens, and adults. They also come from all walks of life: poor, middle class, wealthy, young, old, male, female and of every ethnicity and race.

Many people believe human trafficking only happens in other countries and overseas, but in 2016 the National Human Trafficking Hotline had 7,621 human trafficking cases reported – 249 of those cases were reported in Michigan. Human trafficking knows no zip code and does not only exist in big cities, like Las Vegas or New York. This problem even exists in small rural areas like Shiawassee County. So, it is important to raise awareness and educate our community about human trafficking.

What does human trafficking look like in your stores, home, and community?

Experts believe that most cases of human trafficking go unreported. Statistically speaking, only about 3% of human trafficking victims are abducted from places like malls, sporting events, and grocery stores. Other cases of human trafficking are family members selling their own relatives. However, most cases of sexual and labor trafficking are, in fact, by recruitment.

It is very important to understand how traffickers recruit. Traffickers often make false promises for a better life to their victims. Many children, teens, and adults are looking for someone who will accept them. Traffickers can sense their vulnerability and lure them by showering them with affection, attention and offering expensive gifts and clothing.  For the victim, an unrealistic picture is painted of what life would be like in a “new” family or a life with money.  Often traffickers try to isolate their victims or turn them against their family. Once “hooked”, the victims are told in order to keep living such lavish lifestyle s, they must “give something to get something”.  Victims are then coerced, or forced, into prostitution or free labor and are often introduced to illegal drugs. If the victim tries to pull away from the situation, the trafficker often threatens the victim’s safety or the safety of their family members if they do not continue to comply.

Protect yourself and your children from becoming victims of Human Trafficking

  • Don’t be distracted when out in public. Put away cell phones and pay attention to what is going on around you! When you aren’t alert you become an easier target for crime.
  • Don’t make any decisions under the influence of substances, like alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • If someone promises you something “too good to be true”, beware!
  • Traffickers often look like “normal” people and are very friendly and encouraging.
  • If you are thinking about running away from home, locate a local shelter or another safe place.
  • If offered an opportunity for education or a better income, always check with the agency or recruiters to be sure they are reputable. Always ask lots of questions, this will help you avoid scams and dangerous situations.
  • Always know who your child’s friends are, even online friends. Social media (like Facebook and messaging apps) and online video games are a prime target for children.
  • Always love your children unconditionally- if problems exist seek counseling, mentoring programs or rehab.

If you are being watched or followed:

  • Remain in control but draw attention to yourself – talk loud or make a scene.
  • Don’t let the trafficker get behind you.
  • Call 911 and alert store personnel or a security guard.
  • Use your cell phone and take a picture of the trafficker and send it to friends, family or 911.
  • Text your name, your location (name of the store or address where you are) to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733.

How you can help

If you suspect human trafficking please report your findings to the National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888. If you are a victim of human trafficking, you can text the word “SAFE” and your location to 69866 for immediate help and within seconds you will receive a text back with the closest safe place location.



Author Nicole Peel is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with Health Partners for Women in Owosso. Nicole is very passionate about being a women’s health advocate and educates patients in all areas of women’s health and wellness. She truly believes in the importance of educating all women, especially young women so they can develop healthy choices about their health that will impact them during their lifetime. Nicole is currently accepting new patients with most insurances. For additional information click here.