Bloggers Note: Below is an op/editorial I submitted to Lancaster Online in response to “Human trafficking happens even in Lancaster County; it’s a horrific crime that needs to be halted [opinion] | Editorials | lancasteronline.com” Iapologizefor the typo I made in the letter. I am posting from my phone with small screen while on a quick break at work. M.
Re/Post: Human trafficking happens even in Lancaster County; it’s a horrific crime that needs to be halted [opinion] | Editorials | lancasteronline.com
Human trafficking happens even in Lancaster County; it’s a horrific crime that needs to be halted [opinion] The LNP Editorial Board Nov 3, 2017
Congressman Lloyd Smucker and U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte take part in a roundtable discussion about human trafficking at the new North Star Initiative location in Lititz, Oct. 27, 2017.
THE ISSUE: North Star Initiative, a faith-based nonprofit, will open a home in Lititz called The Harbor later this year for women over the age of 18 who are victims of sex trafficking and abuse. As LNP staff writer Sam Janesch reported last week, round-the-clock, trained staff will help the women with daily life skills while counselors will provide clinical therapy and other volunteers will offer programming and classes. It will become the first program in Lancaster County — and perhaps all of central Pennsylvania — to offer refuge to women abused in sex trafficking as they seek to restore their lives.
Human trafficking seems like the nightmarish stuff of bad Lifetime movies, something that happens in distant, chaotic places.
But it’s an all too real problem, one to which Lancaster County is not immune.
“You could probably, almost on a daily basis, find something somewhere in Lancaster County advertised on the Backpage website for some kind of service,” said East Lampeter Township Police Chief John Bowman, referring to a classifieds website that often features cryptic ads for prostitution and sex trafficking. Bowman was part of a discussion on sex trafficking last Friday at The Harbor. The talk was organized by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who brought House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican whose committee deals with most of the human trafficking-related bills in Congress. We laud Congressman Smucker for his interest in this issue. It’s one that most people don’t want to face.
And yet as Goodlatte pointed out, “Human trafficking is something that is a pervasive problem in our society.”
“It is in every community,” he noted, “and it takes many, many different forms.”
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape [says] of the crime: “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the exploitation of others. Human traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion against victims to manipulate them into engaging in commercial sex acts, or labor/services in exchange for something of monetary value (money, safety, transportation).
“When victims of human trafficking are minors, force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary. … Often they are U.S. citizens. There is also not a requirement of transportation in human trafficking.”
It is considered to be among the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, PCAR notes — now second only to drug trafficking.
The places listed by PCAR where it takes place may be as surprising to you as they were to us. It happens not only in brothels, sleazy massage parlors and sketchy online escort services, but on ordinary streets, in hotels and motels, at truck stops, in migrant camps and restaurants, and on craigslist.com as well as the aforementioned backpage.com.
The human traffickers may not just be pimps, gang members, smugglers and those who purchase sex acts, but family members of the victim, women, employers at legitimate businesses and — this one genuinely shocked us — kids under the age of 18.
Because the crime is so widespread and conducted so surreptitiously, it takes more than just our law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for potential victims.
Flight attendants, in particular, have been enlisted in the fight against human trafficking; many have been trained to recognize victims and traffickers. So, too, have PennDOT transit agency staff and driver’s license center employees.
The PCAR website lists social and physical indicators to help identify trafficking.
The physical signs include:
— Tattoos, brands or scarring indicating ownership.
— Injuries from beatings or weapons.
— Signs of malnourishment.
— Signs of torture (e.g., cigarette burns).
Social indicators that a person may be a trafficking victim:
— A youth is begging on the street or is a chronic runaway.
— A child is truant or not enrolled in school.
— A child or adolescent is with someone purchasing drugs. Children often are used as commodities.
— A person isn’t allowed to freely contact friends and family, and is isolated from the community.
At last week’s discussion, he urged local law enforcement and other groups combating trafficking to alert him when they apply for federal grant money so he can write letters of support.
Now we urge you to ask other members of Congress to support bipartisan legislation to prevent human trafficking and help its victims. One such bill is Senate Bill 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017.
Introduced by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, the bill would ensure that websites — like backpage.com — that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is among its co-sponsors.
It is just one of multiple bills before Congress to combat this awful crime. It merits passage. And the victims of trafficking need our support.