How to

How to recognize and report human trafficking

(COLORADO SPRINGS) — In a world that’s becoming exponentially inward and self-centered, those fighting human trafficking say it’s time to look up.

“Often people think human trafficking is just over there, somewhere else,” said Jennisue Jessen, a human trafficking survivor. “Human trafficking happens right here in Colorado Springs. We are blind to what is happening. opened eyes. see something, say something. It seems so trivial, but we go through our lives, scrolling and rushing from here to there and back again.”

Jessen began human trafficking when she was just four years old, and she says there were people in her life who noticed something was wrong, but they never asked questions or got involved.

“I would tell anyone who suspects something is happening to invest time in a relationship with that person and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions,” Jessen said. “As simple as ‘I see you look very tired today’ or ‘I see you seem sad lately, is there something going on? how can i love you today How may I serve you today?’ And those are great questions to ask a young child and a 45-year-old woman. “Something seems wrong, are you alright? What do you need?’ And that opens the door.”

Special Agent Nathan Schilling, the resident agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, said he agrees that people need to look out for others and look for red flags in order to get victims the help they need.

“Someone who doesn’t have identification documents or can’t produce identification documents, if they are under the control of another person or the person is telling them where they can and can’t go, no freedom of movement,” Schilling said.

Other signs include being malnourished or working extremely long hours.
“Look for scars or bruises or injuries that just don’t make sense,” Jessen said. “Look for people who are used to being outgoing, lively, and happy, and now they’re withdrawn or sad or depressed.”

Other warning signs include substance abuse, a new cell phone, new clothes, or other gifts that cannot be explained. Communication also changes or is cut off from friends and family.

“Anything that indicates a significant change in their behavior, where they may not have the same freedom or ability to reach out to their friends or the public as they once did,” Schilling said. “No single indicator has to necessarily be a sign that one is a victim of human trafficking.”

Schilling said if you suspect human trafficking is occurring, don’t get involved, but instead report anything you know to the National Human Trafficking Hotline or call local law enforcement.

“Just call 911, let the municipalities do it,” says Schilling. “We have great partnerships with them and are ready to conduct these investigations together with our local partners.”

Jessen said you can also help victims get help themselves.

“You have to be ready,” she said. “It’s going to blow up their whole world in the best, most devastating way.”

Tips can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week at humantraffickinghotline.org or at 1-888-373-7888. There is also a text option that can be used. Send “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.

One misconception about human trafficking is that victims are dragged off the streets, but Jessen and Schilling said victims often know their trafficker.

“It’s just who they thought they were in a relationship with wasn’t who they really are,” Schilling said. “Often it is a slow process where the trafficker begins to take control of that person and whether it takes away their means of communication, takes away their freedom of movement, pressures them in any way. But it’s a slow transition from freedom, self-identity, to a position where that person controls everything about you.”

Schilling said runaway children are at greater risk of being trafficked, noting that traffickers often take advantage of them and use alcohol or drugs to control them.

Schilling said that anyone who commits commercial sexual acts under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking because a minor cannot consent to the performance of sexual acts.

Sex and labor trafficking occurs in Colorado and Jessen said it will take a group effort to make a difference.

“I think the biggest myth and misconception is that it’s not happening or it’s not happening here, and the reality is it’s happening in our schools, it’s happening in our neighborhoods, it’s happening all around us in our community.” , said Jessen . “The only solution is community, the only solution is our willingness to put down our phones, engage with the people we are with, ask the tough questions, be vulnerable with each other, be honest, see each other . That is the solution.”

“If you see anything suspicious, report it,” Schilling said. “I feel like there are a lot of people who are likely to see suspicious behavior that might indicate human trafficking. We’re going to do the investigation, that’s why we’re here. That’s within our scope of investigation, and there are many state and local partners and non-profit organizations that are also there to help.”

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