WARSAW — The Bowen Center in Warsaw hosted a discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 13, regarding human trafficking in Indiana. Human trafficking involves the practice of illegally using people in forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Ian Hurst, region 2 coalition coordinator of the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, held a presentation on human trafficking and how it affects communities, while also discussing what to look for and how to help trafficking victims.
During his presentation, Hurst shared video clips regarding the story of Aubrey Lloyd, a human trafficking survivor. At the age of 16, Lloyd escaped from an abusive household through a teenager that she thought was her friend. That friend turned out to be a “recruiter,” or someone who helps another receive new people for forced labor or commercial sexual conduct.
Hurst emphasized that human trafficking is not just about sex.
“I’ve heard stories about teenagers completing door-to-door sales with magazines and not knowing where they’re at,” said Hurst. “That is also human trafficking. People take advantage of that forced labor and use it for their own benefit.”
The most common industries that may involve human trafficking include agriculture, forestry, door-to-door sales, the sex industry and restaurants.
“It’s people taking advantage of others through force or coercion,” said Hurst. “Anyone can be guilty of trafficking.”
Hurst also said that trafficking takes place anywhere, not just in large cities. He showed a map of human trafficking cases in the United States, with Indiana and Michigan almost covered in markings that represent cases.
He then continued Lloyd’s story. One night, Lloyd was casually asked over dinner with her friend and friend’s stepfather about joining their “escort service.” She declined, saying that it wasn’t for her.
One night, after attending a party with her friend, she was drugged and sexually assaulted. After the incident, the friend’s stepfather came into the room and said, “That’s the last time you say no to me.” Lloyd was forced and coerced into working as an escort, “dressing up to be sold” to others.
According to information presented by Hurst, family and significant others are the top two categories for potential traffickers.
“Typically, it’s people that the victims know very well,” said Hurst. “In Aubrey’s case, it was her friend and her friend’s stepfather. They were her support system.”
Hurst shared some red flags to look out for with trafficking victims. The red flags include having goods they cannot afford, carrying multiple hotel room keys, showing dramatic personality changes, lying about age and restricting or scripting their communication.
“Upon questioning victims, keep questions open-ended, non-judgmental and without punishment,” said Hurst.
Lloyd said that during the trafficking, she didn’t know who she could trust or turn to.
“I was 16 and didn’t have the ability to make rational decisions,” said Lloyd. “I felt like I had no other option than to keep doing what I was doing.”
Lloyd was trafficked for two to three years until she was rescued.
“Trafficking impedes the ability for youth to make changes in their lives,” said Hurst.
If you suspect human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. If you think someone under the age of 18 is a victim of human trafficking contact the Department of Child Services at (800) 800-5566 and say, “I suspect human trafficking.”