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January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month – The Mining Gazette

By GRAHAM JAEHNIG

[email protected]

[Editor's note: This is the first in a monthlong series intended to raise public of human trafficking, particularly in the Upper Peninsula.]

HOUGHTON — January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Stalking Awareness Month. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, includes both forced labor and . It not only represents a threat to international peace and security but also undermines the rule of law, robs millions of their dignity and freedom, enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and threatens public safety and national security everywhere.

The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children estimates that the number of 10-17-year-olds being trafficked for sex in the United States each year likely exceeds 250,000. Of these, 60% of these victims are runaway, throwaway, or homeless youth. This does not include the thousands of youth being trafficked each year for purposes of labor. Traffickers often target homeless shelters and schools as recruiting grounds for new trafficking victims.

While human trafficking is global as well as national, it happens in the Upper Peninsula, as well. That is why the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force was formed.

The UPHTTF is a nonprofit non-government organization formed to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases at the local, state and federal levels.

The task force supports and encourages a collaborative effort among local and federal , prosecutors, and victim service providers in and around Marquette, Michigan. Aside from this, our other core functions include:

  • Case operations.
  • Data reporting and assessment.
  • Public community engagement awareness and training.

UPHTTF President Stephanie Graef said the task force's jurisdiction covers all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula. It is difficult to quantify statistics on the prevalence of human trafficking in the U.P., she said, because it so underreported.

“It is so hard to actually identify,” she said. “It generally looks like something else, like domestic violence, or drug addiction.”

People with substance use issues are especially vulnerable to trauma and victimization by human traffickers, a 2020 report from the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Some traffickers recruit directly from detox and addiction treatment facilities. The report continues, saying:

“Within the past several years, the United States has prosecuted multiple sex trafficking cases in which the perpetrator used addiction as a tool of coercion. In these cases, perpetrators entrapped victims with existing substance use issues, or initiated dependency in victims with no prior addiction history.”

Graef said that human trafficking goes beyond criminality, it is a human rights issue.

In a Tuesday press release, Dial Help, of Houghton, announced that Dial Help's Victim Services staff work with survivors of both issues and have seen the trauma they can cause firsthand. This month, they are promoting awareness and through information and community education, with a Human Trafficking Education event at the CLK Commons on January 25 from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will receive a certificate of completion, and the training is especially for medical personnel, hotel and rental workers, in addition to community members.

“Human trafficking can look different for different people and areas,” said Paige Setter-Hallwachs, Dial Help Sexual Assault Services Coordinator. “But just like downstate or more urban areas, human trafficking happens in the Upper Peninsula.”

Some common signs seen locally that indicate someone is being trafficked include:

  • Not having control of your personal identity documents
  • Performing sexual favors in exchange for basic necessities such as housing
  • Being unable to leave without repercussions or threats

To learn more about warning signs of trafficking and resources for help Dial Help suggests the website https://humantraffickinghotline.org.

If you suspect someone of being trafficked or are being trafficked yourself, Dial Help recommends calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733, or visit http://humantraffickinghotline.org/.

“Contact our crisis line by calling 800-562-7622 if you are being stalked to request an on-call advocate who can support victims in making a police report or obtaining a forensic exam (commonly referred to as a rape kit),” states Dial Help. Dial Help's Victim Services programs are funded by the

MIDHHS Department of Victim Services and the National Children's Alliance.

Dial Help's Victim Services Unit serves Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.

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This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original location.

ABOUT PBJ LEARNING

PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials online course is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.

 

EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.

ABOUT PBJ LEARNING

PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials online course is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.