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Robert Flynn: Ending human trafficking in Connecticut – Hartford Courant


In a time marked by political, economic and social division, a remedy just may be to focus our collective attention on an issue upon which we all agree. An issue that impacts future generations. And one we can do something about. After all, besides the lowest of criminals, who can say they support human trafficking?

And yet, worldwide, 25 million people are trafficked as labor or sexual commodities, and that figure includes a vast number of children. In Connecticut, since 2014, over 1,300 kids have been referred to the Department of Children and Families as possible victims of . And the problem has been with us for some time. Since its inception in 2007, the Human Trafficking Hotline has identified 508 cases of human trafficking in Connecticut, with 1,046 victims impacted.

There are certainly valiant efforts to stop the problem, ranging from the state's Human Anti-trafficking Response Team, or HART, a DCF-led, multi-agency collaboration to thwart trafficking, to numerous independent not-for-profits, to . At the federal level, national security, health, and law enforcement agencies have collaborated, culminating in a presidential proclamation naming January 2023 as “National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.” And we have seen action being taken as a result. In 2021, there were 53 human trafficking arrests in Connecticut, and nationwide from 2011 to 2020 there was an 84 percent increase in the number of human trafficking prosecutions.

But arrest statistics belie a complete assessment. When evaluating national efforts in 2022, the U.S. Department of State itself reported, “There was a continued lack of progress to comprehensively address labor trafficking in the United States.” Connecticut's evaluation has been similarly meager, with our state's legal human trafficking framework receiving a grade of “F” on report cards issued by national anti-trafficking agencies such as and Shared Hope. Clearly, we need to do more.

Improvements in our state legal apparatus such as access to emergency and long-term housing for survivors would improve our ability to respond to pleas for help, as would ensuring that victims are not prosecuted for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Specialized services such as trauma-specific mental health treatment and adequate crime victim compensation would mitigate people's vulnerabilities and provide a continuum of care for victims. Equally, to address the demand, we need to hold noncompliant employers and offenders accountable. Unfortunately, the funding allocated to provide for these and other needs is limited. We need more to protect those at risk.

We cannot, however, end trafficking merely through our legal apparatus. This is not simply a criminal dilemma to be tasked to police, probation officers and attorneys. It is instead a familial and community crisis, requiring societal change that can only be driven by a fuller of the catastrophe. Consider that, when trafficking occurs, most victims are living with a parent or guardian. Or that trafficking victims are most often recruited and exploited by someone they know well — a family member or caregiver (33 percent), an intimate partner (28 percent) or an employer (22 percent). Human traffickers manipulate, defraud and threaten — force, fraud, and coerce are the legal terms — victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor. And reflect upon the fact that the dynamic takes place right in front of us, through ubiquitous cell phone applications and internet websites.

DCF's and HART's work on the issue, including conducting public awareness trainings to dispel myths and raise attention, create opportunities for trafficking victims to get to safety and for those at risk to avoid abuse. The rest of us must now push for the social change necessary to stop the tragedy. We must heed the call, leverage HART's expertise, and spread the word in our schools, places of worship, hotels, shopping malls and legislature. Only through broad awareness and education can we actively foster opportunity for our youth. For, as cliché as it may be, our children are our future, and as Gov. Ned Lamont reminded us in his State of the State Address, “Connecticut is moving from rescue to , investing in our future.”

Robert Flynn is a consultant and former U.S. intelligence officer. A volunteer with the Connecticut Human Anti-trafficking Response Team (HART), he resides in West Hartford.

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PBJ Learning is a leading provider of human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials 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.

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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.