Human trafficking has two sides, listeners heard from a former Garden City police detective at a forum Sunday at St. Mary's Church.
Hailey Knoll, executive director of Family Crisis Services and a former detective, said the two sides of human trafficking are labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
“Labor trafficking isn’t always sex trafficking, but sex trafficking is always labor trafficking because the sex is a condition of (the work),” she said.
An example of labor trafficking is when an employer hires somebody to work an unreasonable number of hours per week, say 80, which would pay for their rent and nothing else, Knoll said.
“(Workers) have to get a fair wage, they have to be able to have cash and whatnot to be able to get food and pay their bills,” she said.
There are several types of sex trafficking, Knoll said. One type is similar to an arranged marriage, in which a person is sold to another and has no control over anything.
Another type is forced prostitution, in which someone is forced to perform sexual acts or sexual services are a condition of employment, Knoll said.
There are three elements of human trafficking — force, coercion and fear, Knoll said.
“Basically it’s like if I forced someone to be my worker by physical holds, punching, whatever, or I threaten them by saying, ‘I’m going to hurt your cat, your dog or I’ll show up at your kid’s swim meets,’ that’s fear,” she said. “(Traffickers) do their research, they stalk and figure out people’s niche ... and it instills fear, legitimate fear.”
The coercion aspect is where an employer says, "If you work for me that will cover your rent, but you won’t get any money,’ that’s not OK, that’s coercion,” Knoll said.
It’s hard for someone to get out of these kinds of situations, said Veronica Contreras, shelter manager for Family Crisis. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re in the situation until it’s too late or they’re scared of what will happen if they try to leave, or they can’t find a way to leave.
“It’s easier said than done ... sometimes it takes up to nine times before they actually get out of it,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t make it.”
The fear, guilt and shame from being in their situation makes it difficult for victims to file police reports, Contreras said. Many times they don’t.
Knoll said recognizing that a situation is human trafficking is hard. A lot of it is gut instinct, watching people and seeing interactions.
There are two ways to help if you notice a situation, Knoll said. One is to get involved and the other is to not get involved.
The safest way is to not get physically involved, to not be noticed, Knoll said.
“You can follow them to their car, get the tag number, but make sure it’s accurate, take a picture,” she said. “That’s how you can get involved but you’re not involved. Then you have a memory description of what you saw so you can provide all that ... to the police.”
The other way to help by being involved is to discreetly ask the person if they’re OK and if you can help, Knoll said. Be creative and find a way to create distance between the people involved.
Knoll said the best thing that can be done is for people to get educated about human trafficking and to call the police department if they notice something is wrong.
Knoll was pleased with the attendance and participation at the forum Sunday.
“I'm happy to do it because it's all about raising awareness and seeing the support from the community, that the community cares,” she said. “I was thrilled with the participation because everyone had true and valid concerns and just genuine care for the community and their families.”
Maria Castillo, who attended with her daughter Anahi, said she came out because she wanted to learn more.
“I knew last month was human trafficking month, so I was just looking for something to hear stuff about it,” she said. “I know it's going on, I just don't know if I've seen it or what I would do if I did see it, that kind of stuff. And I wanted her to kind of hear it.”
Anahi Castillo said the forum was informative because she learned what to do if she noticed something was going on with a classmate.
“I've never experienced it and I don't want to, but I learned if you see someone like a classmate of mine at school or around me to actually ask them if they're OK, or maybe they look like something is going on with them,” she said. “This stuff interests me because I'm always wanting to help other people.”
Maria Castillo agrees.
“I'm hoping with this if I see something I'm like, OK, ask a question or just say 'are you OK?' that kind of thing, instead of just thinking 'they're probably just having a bad day and not worrying about it,' " she said.
Anahi Castillo said she will be more outspoken about human trafficking now that she knows more about it.
“This is a major thing that's not just happening in the U.S. but happening around the whole world,” she said. “So to get it out and that you may have a perfect but this kid may not have a perfect life, you don't know about they're going through, so to spread the word.”