Human Trafficking: Combating Exploitation and Abuse

Human Trafficking: Combating Exploitation and Abuse

“Where we have humans, we’re going to have trafficking.”

That harsh reality was at the center of the discussion at Wake Up! with United Way on Thursday, October 8, which explored the topic “Human Trafficking: Combating Exploitation and Abuse." This morning discussion explored the definition of human trafficking, the resources available to survivors, and the steps necessary to report and prevent it. 

“Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into any form of work or service against their will,” said Elaine Banter, Region 7 Coalition Coordinator at the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program (ITVAP).  

She explained that force can include physical force or threat of force, fraud can include lying and manipulation, and coercion includes the climate of fear created in these abusive situations. The main types of human trafficking seen in Indiana are labor trafficking and sex trafficking.

While it is common for the general perception of human trafficking involves a stranger abduction, this is rarely the case, according to Banter. For the victim, the trafficker is often someone they know, trust, or even love.  

This is why the experience of human trafficking victims often has many parallels to survivors of intimate partner violence, explained Lindsay Stout, Assistant Crisis Intervention Services Coordinator at Middle Way House. These parallels include the involvement of an intimate partner or trusted person, the cycle of violence, the need for emergency shelter, and the need for support while rebuilding their life. 

Domestic violence shelters like Middle Way House are critical resources for survivors of human trafficking because of the staff’s knowledge and skills, trauma-informed practices, and the holistic services offered, according to Stout.  

“You have to look at the whole picture,” she said. 

And when looking at the whole picture of human trafficking, that includes the children who are survivors of this violence. This area of human trafficking is the primary focus of IU School of Public Health Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Deborah Getz, CYC-P, who teaches in the IU School of Public Health’s youth development major and minor.  

Getz explained that the internet is a growing tool used by traffickers for recruitment, especially when recruiting minors. This is why it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of their children’s online activity.  

“It’s critical to say very clearly and very often, ‘There is nothing you can do online that you can’t share with me,’” she said.  

Despite her focus on child survivors, Getz also emphasized that trafficking could happen to anyone, no matter their age, gender, or socio-economic status. Although, some populations are more vulnerable to trafficking, she said, like LGBTQ+ youth and people of color.  

If there is reason to believe someone is experiencing human trafficking, it is important to report it to the appropriate authorities. The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888 to report instances of human trafficking.

If the individual being trafficked is a minor, a call should be made to the Department of Child Services Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. It should be said clearly that human trafficking is suspected, as this will begin a different investigation than other child abuse situations.  

Individuals should avoid intervening in human trafficking situations.  

“It is not your job to do the investigation,” said Getz. “It is your job to capture information and hand that information over to the proper authorities.”  

If you are able to interact with the person experiencing human trafficking, Lindsay suggests empowering them with resources.  

“With trafficking survivors, all of their power has been taken away,” she said. “And we believe that arming them with tools and resources and information puts the ball back in their court. It puts the power back in their hands.”

If you are interested in engaging in this topic further, you can watch the full Wake Up! with United Way discussion in the following video, or explore the resources listed below.  

Organizations Represented in the Panel

Important Phone Numbers

  • Indiana Child Abuse Hotline (DCS): 1-800-800-5556
  • Middle Way House 24-Hour Crisis Line: 1-812-336-0846
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Organizations

Other Human Trafficking Resources

Helpful Resources:

Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and IU’s Political and Civic Engagement Program, with thanks to The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and the Bloomington Board of Realtors for series support. Thanks also to panel sponsor IU Center for the Study of Global Change.