We see human rights issues all around us today: online, and in the news, from real-life online privacy initiatives and living wage pay increases, to films depicting real-life struggles like Selma and 12 Years a Slave. But often these problems are seen as distant from our daily lives, whether back in time, or across the globe. In fact, human rights violations are happening right now, every day, just beyond our own backyards.
Sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, affecting millions globally. Sadly, this illegal industry generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. With an average age of entry into prostitution at 13-14 years old, approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States, earning a pimp up to $200,000 per child annually. The average pimp has four to six girls, each of whom may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day.
Because they tend to be isolated and have many people passing through, truck stops are a common location for sex trafficking. Truckers, estimated to be seven million strong, are the eyes and ears of the nation’s highways and stand in position to be the front line of defense for these endangered children and minors.
Begun in 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) was originally an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries, becoming its own 501c3 in 2011. Using a grassroots strategy of distributing educational materials throughout the trucking industry and raising awareness through word of mouth and social media, TAT trains and empowers truckers to respond to and report suspicious activity. Through partnerships with law enforcement agencies across the country, TAT and its members are beginning to close the loopholes that enable trafficking by exploiting the nation’s highways.
Lawmakers, too, have been working to squelch the problem of human trafficking. In Minnesota, the 2011 “Safe Harbor” law treats sex-trafficked children under age 16 as victims; similar legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has failed on the federal level in recent years. This federal bill, Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, is expected to be considered again this year.
Out on the roads, truckers are one of the most motivated and well-organized industry groups on this issue, and their reports have led to countless arrests and recoveries of victims across the country. By following these steps, every trucker can do his or her part to help end human trafficking:
- Print out or request printed materials from TAT by emailing TAT.Truckers@gmail.com
- If you see something, say something: call 1-888-373-7888 to report any suspicious activity immediately.
- Raise awareness by discussing human trafficking with those around you: in your company, your friends and family, and people you interact with while on the job, especially in truck stops.
- Ask your Safety Director to include the TAT Training Video in employee training sessions, and include the topic of human trafficking as a regular part of discussions and meetings.
For more information about how you can make a difference by partnering with TAT, TruckersAgainstTrafficking.com, TAT.Truckers@gmail.com, or call 612-888-4828.