HONESDALE—Closing awareness activities for Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Victims' Intervention Program (VIP) hosted a screening of “Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth,” a documentary diving into the face of human trafficking and prostitution in the United States.
“A lot of people think that [human trafficking is] a third-world country problem, and it is, but it's also a problem within the United States,” explained VIP Executive Director Michele Minor Wolf. “It happens in Pennsylvania. It happens in Wayne County. It happens everywhere.”
Wolf noted when VIP began shining light on the issue in 2016, Pennsylvania was ranked number 14 in terms of reported trafficking cases. It has since elevated to rank 10.
Wolf noted human trafficking is quite often an “invisible crime” which “happens right under our noses in plain sight.”
Looking to illuminate the plight of those unnoticed, VIP advocates preceded the screening with a Red Sand Project demonstration.
Attendees walking into The Cooperage Wednesday evening were greeted by vibrant red sand poured into breaks in the sidewalk.
Despite the rain's best efforts to wash away the grains, the sidewalk's cracks shone brightly Wednesday night.
“The Red Sand Project is to highlight all the marginalized victims that just fall through the cracks,” said Wolf. “It's a metaphor for how the victims of human trafficking are often falling in between the cracks.”
Wolf later touched upon the crime's invisibility, noting that victims often don't come forward due to fear of physical retaliation, emotional manipulation, dependence upon the trafficker and, in some cases, the threat of deportation.
District Attorney Patrick Robinson further emphasized this point stating, “These human trafficking victims, they're not calling the police...Lot's of times, they don't know they're victims.”
Robinson added, “We have to depend on people reporting to us other than the actual victim.”
He called upon the crowd assembled and the greater Wayne County populace to take note of their surroundings and report suspicions activity.
Some signs of human trafficking include:
• Workers living where they work, often kept in caged or barred areas
• Workers are not free to come or go as they please
• Workers do not receive compensation directly
• Workers are often in the commercial sex industry and have a pimp/manager
• Workers are frequently abused
Victims of human trafficking are frequently children and often present as fearful and anxious, unaware of their surroundings, not in control of their money and not allowed to speak for themselves.
A third party will control a victim's money and documents, and will insist on speaking on the victim's behalf.
More signs and descriptions of human trafficking are available from the Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org.)
Also present Wednesday night, Commissioner Wendell Kay thanked Wolf, VIP and Robinson for their efforts in handling the issue and helping survivors of human trafficking.
“It's important to us that we hear from folks like you, so that we know what the critical issues are and can do our small part to try to resolve as many of them as we can.”
VIP works with victims and survivors of myriad human rights violations including human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence.
Those needing assistance or looking for more information regarding the above-mentioned topics can call VIP's 24-hour hotline 570-253-4401 or 1-800-698-4847, or visit their website: www.vipempowers.org.
More information about human trafficking is also available from the Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org).
Reports can be made and victims can find help via the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or by texting “help” to BeFree (233733).