Recognizing Signs of Human Trafficking: Walmart and Target Should Stay Vigilant

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Walmart and Target Should Be Aware of Signs of Human Trafficking

Anyone can experience trafficking, but community-wide vulnerabilities make certain people more at risk. Generational trauma, historic oppression, and discrimination can create a climate where trafficking thrives.

TEMPLE, Texas — Two women say they were followed by men they believed to be sex traffickers at a Temple Walmart.

Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road and can be particularly at risk for human trafficking. A national nonprofit trains truckers to recognize and report potential exploitation.

Signs of Human Trafficking

People who work for companies that import from Thailand-including Walmart and Target-should be aware of signs of human trafficking. Recognizing key indicators can help identify victims and save lives.

Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery or forced labour, involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit people for profit. This can include commercial sex acts, domestic servitude, and involuntary prostitution. People who are being trafficked often have no idea that they’re being exploited and are isolated from their friends, family and community by the person controlling them.

Common warning signs of trafficking can include sudden isolation, frequent phone calls or texts with an unfamiliar number, suspicious gifts or money, and inexplicable changes to someone’s appearance. In addition, victims who are being trafficked may have bruises from the physical abuse they’ve suffered and have been subjected to mental or emotional manipulation.

Targets of Human Trafficking

While there are some groups that are more vulnerable to trafficking, anyone can become a victim. Traffickers often target children, people with disabilities, the LBGTQ community and immigrants. They may exploit victims for commercial sex, domestic servitude or extreme labor in massage parlors, hair salons, restaurants and factories.

Those who drive for a living are also particularly susceptible to being targeted by human traffickers, according to Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). That’s because these drivers spend so much time on the road. TAT has a team that educates truckers about what human trafficking is and how to spot it.

TAT’s training includes how to recognize red flags at truck stops and other places that attract these criminals. The organization’s Road Team also gives out wallet cards that include red flags to watch for and when to call police. While these tools might help reduce the number of people who are subject to human trafficking, they will never stop it completely.

Human Trafficking in the U.S.

While many people think that human trafficking only happens to immigrants, anyone can be a victim. In the United States, victims are used for commercial sex, forced labor and other types of exploitation.

Victims are often deceived with false promises of employment, love and a better life. They may suffer abuse, violence or neglect and be isolated from family and friends. They are often denied access to health care, food and drink, work or sleep. Traffickers may also use force, fraud and coercion to exploit victims.

They prey on individuals who are vulnerable or at risk because of poverty, lack of income, limited English proficiency, immigration status, a history of intimate partner violence or social and emotional challenges. In the United States, these include children in foster care or juvenile justice systems; homeless or runaway youth; racial or ethnic minority groups; individuals with substance use problems; and those who are economically vulnerable. People can be trafficked across international borders or within the country, and they can be native Americans, foreign citizens, or those who have lawful immigration status.

Human Trafficking in Asia

Human trafficking is a global problem, but Asia is home to the greatest number of victims. Its impact is felt across generations and ages, with women and children being particularly vulnerable. It is often triggered by economic crisis or natural disaster, such as typhoons and earthquakes, with those who survive often sold into slavery or forced marriages.

In the digital economy, more people are being exploited online than ever before. The majority of those who are trafficked in this way are men, but women and adolescents also fall prey. They are lured via social media apps with promises of well-paid employment, only to find themselves trapped in slave compounds.

ICMC works with local Catholic partners to address this issue. In December 2019, the Asia-Oceania Working Group held a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to bring together experts and grassroots activists to discuss the challenges of fighting this crime.

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