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HUMAN TRAFFICKING: By Jill Dierberg Clark


A strip mall. A baseball game. A work convention. A holiday gala. What do these things have in common? They are some of the myriad events and places where people may fall victim to exploitation and human trafficking.


In recent years non profit organizations,


religious institutions and schools have worked to heighten awareness of human trafficking. Nevertheless, some people remain unaware of the warning signs of human trafficking in their communities. So what do you need to know?


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People of all ages, genders and racial back- grounds can fall victim to trafficking. While women and children are more likely to


be vulnerable to both sex and labor trafficking, men are also subject to exploitation. Often the victims—no matter their age, gender


or race—are individuals with unfortunate life circumstances who are coerced into trafficking to improve their situation, explained Amy Reumann, director for ELCA advocacy. They are women and children in abusive relationships, children who have run away from home, women and men who have struggled to find work in their communities or don’t have enough to feed their families. “A great deal of trafficking takes place in the


‘ They sang about love and it made me feel worse.’


service industries and in agriculture—industries with children and foreign and domestic workers who have been coerced,” Reumann said. “Any situation where someone is not in control of their money or not getting access to health care puts them at risk.”


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Human trafficking occurs in plain sight. For many years human trafficking has been an invisible problem that resides in visible and


public locations both domestically and abroad. Major sporting events like the Super Bowl, political conventions, holiday festivals and philanthropic fundraisers are places where victims are forced to work in plain sight. “You see an uptick in escort ser- vices and the availability of commercial sex during holidays and large events,” Reumann said. “These are times of desperation for some people.” Delegates at the 2014 Women of the ELCA


Triennial Convention approved a memorial to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking. To address this issue, the ELCA Southern Ohio Synodical Women’s Organization initiated the SOAP (Save Our Adolescent Prostitutes) Project at its September 2015 synodical convention. Participants wrapped individual bars of soap with the hotline number for the Human Trafficking Resource Center and distributed them to hotels throughout their synod. “When we were planning our convention, we


wanted to make human trafficking the central focus,” said Robin Kaelin, president of the Southern Ohio women’s group. Since then, she reported that 5,000 bars of soap were distributed to hotels for use during major events when trafficking often occurs. The ELCA ’s advocacy office has worked with


the tourism industry on a national level since 2006 to encourage major hotel and travel chains to sign “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” (thecode.org). “Since that time, Hyatt, Choice Hotels, Hilton, Wyndham and Accor as well as Delta Airlines have signed on,” said Pat Zerega, consultant to the ELCA on corporate social responsibility. “Other chains have implemented trafficking training and human rights policies.”


Four things you need to know


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