JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Violence: the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community.
Human trafficking falls under the wide umbrella of violent crimes. During Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, it’s important for members to understand why staying alert can help save someone or themselves from being trafficked.
According to Pamela Adams, Joint Base Langley-Eustis Violence Prevention Chief, human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry, second only to the drug trafficking trade. It affects not only the victims emotionally and physically, but it is a costly crime to taxpayers as well.
Since military members travel frequently, whether it be for permanent change of station, temporary duties, deployments or leave travel, it is important to stay vigilant and aware of one’s surroundings.
In Virginia alone, 198 cases were reported to the national hotline in 2018. The overwhelming numbers of trafficking cases were trafficking with female adults being the main demographic.
“Human trafficking violates the basic human right and is not compatible with our Air Force core values,” said Joseph Payne, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 201 superintendent.
There’s no demographic specifically at risk, according to the Violence Prevention Office. It can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, nationality, social status, economic status or immigration status. However, here are a few groups more vulnerable than others:
• Under 18 years old
• Homeless individuals
• People in financial hardship
“Many of the victims come from economic instability or are vulnerable because of their age, social, or immigration status,” Payne said. “They don’t have a voice out of fear from the traffickers and need someone to be their voice to provide them the help and services they need.”
Military members are taught throughout their careers to practice their situational awareness. This may help members be more aware in the instance of a human trafficking situation.
Things to look out for are victims being followed, watched or monitored, someone speaking on behalf of a victim, victim under the age of 18, signs of sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse, forced work in unsafe conditions and many others.
“People in this kind of situation might not always be aware that they are in danger because they’ve been manipulated,” Adams said. “They may not be receptive to [help] and the person controlling them isn’t going to give access either.”
One question an active bystander might ask is what to do when human trafficking is suspected? Never intervene in the situation directly. Reporting the situation to the authorities is the recommended action.
“Inner voice is there for a reason and we need to trust that and honor that,” Adams said.
Never act alone in getting help because human trafficking is a very dangerous situation.
To report any human trafficking, call local authorities or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.