January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness of this global crime that affects millions of men, women and children every year. In addition to participating in special events and activities, including #WearBlueDay on January 11, organizations can help combat human trafficking by implementing anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and human trafficking awareness training.
What is human trafficking?
The US Department of Homeland Security, which investigates human trafficking, defines it as a form of modern-day slavery, involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose. The three most common forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude. Human smuggling is a related but different crime, involving the illegal movement of individuals across borders.
Human trafficking can occur in any industry, however, hotels and motels are common venues for traffickers, who take advantage of the anonymity of the hospitality industry. Many hotels are collaborating on anti-trafficking efforts through organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and ECPAT-USA, a policy organization focused on stopping child sex trafficking.
Lawmakers are also taking action. According to a ECPAT-USA survey, California, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey have passed laws requiring human trafficking awareness training for hotel and motel staff. In addition, 11 other states have voluntary training laws for hospitality employees, including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont.
Identifying human trafficking
Training employees to recognize potential warning signs of human trafficking is an essential step in helping victims and combating trafficking. Red flags vary depending on the situation and environment, however, some general indicators are individuals who:
✓ Show signs of physical abuse
✓ Are not free to leave or come and go at will
✓ Appear fearful or anxious
✓ Have few or no personal possessions
✓ Avoid eye contact and interactions with others
For hotel employees, activities that may be indicators of trafficking are guests who:
✓ Pay with cash or a preloaded credit card
✓ Refuse cleaning services for multiple days
✓ Leave minors alone in a room for a long time
✓ Always keep a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their door
✓ Ask staff or guests for food or money
✓ Entertain a minor who they didn’t originally arrive with at the bar or restaurant
What to do if you suspect human trafficking
Employees who suspect human trafficking should not attempt to confront the trafficker or alert a victim. Instead, employees should be trained on their organization’s reporting procedures, which may include contacting management, local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which operates a toll-free number, 1-888-373-7888, and text line, 233733.
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January is designated as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, an opportunity for organizations to raise awareness of this devastating violation of human rights. Beyond participating in special events during January, organizations can do their part throughout the year by developing and enforcing anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and training employees on what human trafficking is, how to recognize red flags and how to respond appropriately if they suspect trafficking or come into contact with traffickers or victims.