The following comes from a December 31 Catholic Voice article by Michele Jurich:
“Human trafficking has lots of different faces,” said Holy Family Sister Caritas Foster, who has spent the last decade raising awareness of the “hidden crime in plain sight.”
January has been designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Awareness Month, and with the Super Bowl coming up in the Bay Area next month, the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking is spreading the word, not only about sex trafficking but labor trafficking.
Children are being bought and sold for sex on boulevards in Oakland and along the Interstate 80 corridor, she says. But the trafficking of human beings also happens in restaurants, nail salons, construction, domestic service and residential care, Sister Caritas said. It can also involve groups sent out begging or peddling.
The trafficking of laborers, she said, is harder to spot because often “it looks ordinary.”
People can be trafficked by organized crime, street gangs — and their own family members.
There could be a house with many people living in a garage; being picked up in a van, and dropped off at a restaurant. Or a van pulls into a church parking lot, and women get out and beg.
A case of domestic servitude was uncovered in Contra Costa County, she said, when parents at a school noticed a woman who was bringing children to school always wore the same clothes.
“Sometimes it can come up in casual conversation,” said Sister Caritas. “Someone says she can’t leave a job because she needs to pay off a debt.”
If you encounter a suspected instance of human trafficking, the first rule, Sister Caritas said, “never put yourself or another person at risk. If it is trafficking, you don’t know where the trafficker might be.”
If “something doesn’t seem right,” Sister Caritas suggests a phone call to the national hotline 888-3737-888. It’s a call that can be made anonymously, and will be investigated and referred to law enforcement.
Worldwide estimates are 20 million people are trafficked, three-quarters adults, one-quarter children, with three-quarters involved in labor; one-quarter in sex-trafficking.
In California, the numbers tip more toward sex trafficking, she said. California is the largest receiving state for the trafficking of humans, Sister Caritas said.