It is estimated that human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.
While many have heard of human trafficking few understand its magnitude; are able to recognize it; or think it could happen in Oswego County. Unfortunately, human trafficking is happening in Oswego County.
Realizing that fact, the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County (CAC) and Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) have taken the lead on a collaboration which, under a contract with DSS and the NYS office of children and family services, has established a committee comprised of area human services agencies to raise awareness of, and eradicate human trafficking in Oswego County.
“At the CAC we understand that we need to be the one doing the most to help our children, said CAC Executive Director Karrie Damm. “To do that, we need to understand trafficking and the many modern forms of slavery. Human trafficking is a crime in which force, fraud, or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services, or commercial sex. As defined by the Polaris Project Freedom Happens Now! Human Trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud, or physically force survivors into providing commercial sex (formerly known as prostitution). In other cases, survivors are lied to, assaulted, threatened, or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions.”
“Human trafficking affects all populations: adults, children, men, and women in all economic classes,” continued Damm. “We’ve witnessed human tracking in our communities. Whether it’s a landlord requesting sex acts for rent; children being forced to stay at home and baby sit a sibling when they should be in school; or forcing children and adolescents to perform commercial sex for money, food, or services; human trafficking is indeed happening in Oswego County.”
“These survivors have a different kind of trauma, one that needs specialization and expertise. With the CAC and OCO as the front line our advocates and programs can respond to these special needs. Our partners on the critical team play an essential role for providing referrals to services, legal matters, and criminal charges, added Damm.”
In recognition of January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month the CAC and it partner agencies have begun their efforts to educate community members about what human trafficking is, the presence of human trafficking in Oswego County, how to detect it, and what to do if they suspect it.
“In our training sessions we discuss the places in which it occurs, whom it affects and the techniques used to force people into service and hold them there. Our goal is to equip community members with the knowledge and tools to help fight human trafficking, such as recognizing the indicators that a person has been trafficked,” said Damm.
According to the NYS Office of Children and Family Services key indicators that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported include:
• Shows signs of mental, physical, or sexual abuse.
• Has a significantly older partner/spends a lot of time with a controlling person or older adult.
• Lives in housing provided by employer.
• Displays a pattern of staying in the homes of friends or a non-legally responsible adult.
• Reluctant to discuss how they make money, where they live, or how or when they came to the U.S.
• Have had multiple sexually transmitted infections and/or abortions.
• Has suspicious tattoos or burn marks (branding).
• Is restricted in communication and/or displays anxious, fearful, depressed, submissive, tense and nervous behavior.
The CAC’s first Human Trafficking training session will be held in conjunction with a Paint & Sip Night fundraiser for the Oswego Zonta Club on January 17 at GS Steamers, 70 East 1st Street in Oswego. Jessica Westberry, an advocate with the CAC, will be at the event to address attendees and discuss ways in which community members can aid in the fight against human trafficking.
For more information on the CAC, the impact of human trafficking on Oswego County and a list of upcoming trainings, contact the CAC at 315-59CHILD (315-592-4453) or visit www.oswegocac.org.