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DOJ and YWCA partner to raise awareness of human trafficking in Montana

Posted: 9:12 AM, Oct 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-17 11:12:24-04

HELENA – The Montana Department of Justice and the Helena YWCA partnered up Tuesday night to teach people how to recognize, respond to and report human trafficking in Montana.

The educational event was part of  Week Without Violence , a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

“Part of empowering women is having women feel safe in their communities and safe in their environment,” said Abigail St. Lawrence, the vice-president of Helena YWCA. “Having that week without violence, imagining what our communities could be like without violence in general, but particularly violence against women is so important towards that empowerment.”

A panel of experts spoke at the session, including Dana Toole, the Chief of the Children’s Justice Bureau at DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation, Jeannette Miller, an FBI victim advocate, and Detective Guy Baker with the Missoula Police Department and Safe Streets Task Force.

According to the DOJ,  human trafficking is prevalent in Montana , even though many people don’t realize its scope.  The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates 57,700 people experience modern slavery in the United States.

The U.S. State Department reports the number of human trafficking victims is in the tens of millions worldwide. And in 2015, women were involved in more than 90% of sex trafficking and almost 60% of labor trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The following signs of human trafficking are on the  DOJ website :

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

The website says victims of trafficking may be found in any industry with a demand for cheap labor and without much monitoring:

  • Agriculture and farms
  • Domestic work
  • Hostess and strip clubs
  • Restaurants and food service industry
  • Factories
  • Peddling and begging rings
  • Hospitality industry

According to Toole, if you suspect human trafficking, call your local law enforcement immediately.

You can also ask the suspected victim questions, such as “Where do you sleep?”, “Can you keep you ID with you?”, “Do you have access to medical care?”, “Can you eat when you’re hungry?”, or “Can you sleep when you’re tired?”

She says human trafficking can go hand-in-hand with drugs and weapons, and human traffickers can be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to get the police involved.

-Evie Schultz reporting for MTN News