Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Metro Drives Awareness on Human Trafficking

    “He lied about the job, now he won’t let me leave.”
    “He promised me a place to stay, then forced me to work as a prostitute.”
    “She promised me work, then forced me to give up my passport and my wages.”

    These are examples of some of the ads you’ll see quoting local human trafficking survivors on 200 Metro buses. It’s all part of a campaign to raise awareness for the escalating problem, both locally and nationally.

    Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into any form of labor against their will.

    And it’s happening right here in King County.

    Two weeks ago, King County launched a county-wide campaign to raise awareness for human trafficking, which includes posting ads in eight languages on 200 Metro buses.

    According to Metropolitan King County Executive Dow Constantine, human trafficking is a lucrative and fast-growing enterprise with an estimated 32 million victims worldwide. Half of these victims are children.

    “We can end human trafficking only by raising the visibility of the issue in our community, recognizing the signs, and learning what to do if you see or hear something,” said Constantine.

    Human trafficking can occur in any industry, whether it’s in agriculture, construction, domestic service (e.g. housekeeper, nanny), restaurants, salons, commercial sex work, and even small businesses.

    The wide scope of industries where this occurs emphasizes the importance in recognizing the signs of a human trafficking victim and knowing what to do when seen or heard.

    According to the Polaris Project of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the following may be signs that someone is a victim of trafficking:
    • Workers who have had their ID, passport or documents taken away
    • Workers who show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture
    • Workers who show signs of emotional abuse
    • Workers who are being threatened by or are in debt to their boss
    • Workers who are under 18 and are involved in the commercial
    sex industry
    • Workers who are not free to leave or come and go from their place of work as they wish
    • Workers who don’t seem to be receiving payment

    “This is a form of modern-day slavery,” said County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “While Washington became the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking in 2003, it remains a focal point for traffickers because of its ports, proximity to an international border and its dependency on agricultural workers.”

    This is also evident in the Washington state report by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Data Breakdown. Between July 1 and Sept. 30 of last year, there was a total of 110 hotline calls received from Washington callers. Broken down by cities, Seattle ranked no. 1 with 21 calls, followed by Mount Vernon with 11 calls.

    The case study not only shows that Washington state remains active in human trafficking, it also shows that there is help for potential victims who are urged to call the NHTRC hotline at 888-373-7888 to report a tip or to seek help.

    “We know that it takes only 45 minutes for an unaccompanied minor girl to be approached by a pimp or a john at Westlake Center, in the heart of Downtown Seattle,” said Dunn, who is also a sponsor of the trafficking motion adopted by the Council. “That is why what we are doing today is so important. This public awareness campaign will show victims and potential victims that help is available and there is a way out of such a horrific situation.”

    In addition to sponsoring the 200 ads, King County has partnered with other organizations to provide social services that victims need most. This includes access to safe housing and immigration lawyers.

    But on a smaller scale, Seattle University students can also make a difference to help with the issue at hand, even doing without the resources that lawmakers have.

    “The thing to do is to call the hotline. Even if you don’t know, even if you’re unsure, sometimes it’s better to call,” said Bailey Disher, a co-founding member of Seattle U’s Human Trafficking Awareness Club. “They will be able to answer your questions. They will be able to help you identify – that’s their job. Don’t be afraid to call.”

    What started as a small-wind project for Intro to Public Administration ended up sparking Disher and others to start the Human Rights Awareness Club, which was officially recognized as a club last quarter and meets every Monday at 8 p.m. in Pigott 107.

    “The club started because we tabled an event to calculate Slavery Footprint. We got a lot of emails, so we thought maybe people care about this,” Disher said. “We decided we wanted to have a place for people to discuss the issue and come up with ideas on how to impact change whether personal or societal or a combination of the two.”

    Without a mission statement last quarter, the club focused on defining what human trafficking is and its different forms, as it is common for people to be uninformed about this topic.

    “I think commonly people think of sex trafficking or labor trafficking, but there’s a number of different forms of trafficking. Any sort of coercion could be considered trafficking,” Disher said.
    Examples of the different forms include child soldiers, child pornography and organ trafficking.

    But as the state begins to recognize these different forms of human trafficking as emerging social justice issues, with the recently launched ad campaign, the Seattle U club is ready to fulfill their own agenda in promoting discussion around campus and hosting more volunteer opportunities to get students involved.

    Currently, there are about 11 core members in the club.

    “We have considered partnerships with the Business Ethics club, maybe some of the international clubs on campus where the issue is also pertinent. But lately what we’ve come to realize is in order to make the biggest impact on the SU campus, we’ll want to draw more of our attention into local and domestic trafficking as opposed to international,” Disher said. “I think internationally it can be such a large issue and in order to interest the most people it’s going to be effective for us to talk about what we can do here in Seattle. We want to bring it close to home, and I think it’s more practical for us to do it that way.”

    Chelsee may be reached at [email protected]

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