In every city I go to, at every event, someone says it. “I hear we're the busiest hub.” or “We're one of the busiest hubs for sex trafficking.”
So... we all can’t be the busiest; and why do you want to be? Is this some sort of badge of honor to feel as if you have more trafficked victims in your town than anywhere else and is that really 'honorable'? When we, and I say we as in those of us who work in this movement for a living; we as in we put in over 40 hours a week to this topic (anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers here, would understand the 10,000-hour expert theory, lol). When we hear someone say this, it does 2 things: 1) Makes you and your org lose credibility, because it shows that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. I'm sorry if that's hard to hear, but I want to be straight forward here because it feels like no one else is saying it. It's like being told, no you really shouldn't really wear that color or yes you do have broccoli in your teeth, sorry it's uncomfortable. Second thing that happens when someone makes this statement: 2) Fuels the sensationalism in communities, that focus on “scaring” people into giving their time and/or money.
None of which I’m sure anyone wanted to do or intended to do. This was probably a well-meaning statement that over time, like the game of telephone, got misconstrued or misunderstood. Where did this saying come from and why does everyone (and I literally mean EVERY city) use it?
Here’s a couple things to consider:
1. Polaris Hotline (and I LOVE Polaris btw - shout out to Brad and Jenna, my homies), but Polaris reports are usually where people get their claim to fame for “busiest”- but here's the deal, Polaris' reports are for how many CALLS came in that year, not how many victims of trafficking incurred. Now, those calls may lead to potential victims or they may be able to categorize the calls as survivors looking for services, but by saying you’re the largest cause you came up on the 2013 Polaris report, that really means you win the award for most concerned citizens and best Polaris regional marketing.
2. Anywhere there is a main freeway, going from large city to another large city can be considered a hub. It isn’t any more or less a hub than any other freeway in America. Driving victims from city to city is what we call the “circuit.” We (as in the victims now- yes I was a victim at one point so now I'm relaying info from back then) – we are being forced to follow groups of men: conferences, sporting or boxing events, etc. So if your freeway takes you through Sturgis then yep, that is one area of transport, A hub.
3. Trafficking is one of THE hardest numbers to get accurate. It is a very under reported crime. Often traffickers are charged with crimes that prosecutors have a better chance at convicting than trafficking, so even conviction reports of trafficking aren’t accurate. We all can get a good “idea” but that’s all it is, a ballpark. When someone gets so specific with numbers, it shows that they don’t fully understand the complexities of under-reporting, of non-reporting, etc and further proves incredibility.
What can we say? Well, you can say, “trafficking is real and it’s here” – that fact is true. “Our city runs through a circuit, making us A hub” – that fact is true. “Trafficking exists anywhere the internet exists” - again true fact. You want to stay credible, cite your source EVERY time. Do some research with fbi.gov and ovc.gov to get real numbers. Call your state’s human trafficking task force and ask them for the numbers of reports, arrests and investigations. Let's do our due diligence on this issue so that we can stand united with credibility.
To learn more about Red Flags and How To Identify Traffickers, please visit www.rebeccabender.org/humantrafficking
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