Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery, exploiting victims for commercial sex or labor purposes. Michigan is a source, destination and transit state used for human trafficking. The perpetrators use force, fraud or coercion. Victims might be found in domestic situations as nannies, maids, janitors, at construction sites, farms or restaurants. Sex trafficking victims might be found working in massage parlors brothels or escort services or they might be the slave next door.
The Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, 90 agencies strong, is focusing on collaborative efforts of law enforcement, prosecution, courts, victim service providers community members, faith based groups, medical care providers ,and businesses to prevent, and address ways to improve responses to this crime against children, women and men. Dr Penny Larsen, President of the Marquette Branch of AAUW represents Michigan AAUW on this task force.
Michigan AAUW is one of five states awarded an Impact Grant by National AAUW to build public awareness of Human Trafficking. At the Marquette Branch’s AAUW ‘s October 10th meeting Kelly Laakso , Sexual Assault and Victim Advocate at the Women’s Center in Marquette and Amy Kordus, Youth Advocate at the Women’s Center’s Harbor House, will define the human trafficking process, help identify human trafficking victims, dispel myths, identify victims needs and legal considerations and local resources. Kordus and Laakso received training on human trafficking issues from Director Jane White of Michigan Human Trafficking Task force and US Attorney General Kelly Carter of the Criminal Division.
While we read in horror the stories of human trafficking in other states we need only to look in the Mining Journal or listen to WLUC-TV6 news to recognize cases of human trafficking are occurring here. Human Trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act can be the recruitment, transportation or harboring of people by means of force, deception, or coercion. Victims are often mentally and physically abused and can be forced into prostitution, unfair working conditions or other exploitive situations.
A 2012 report by Shared Hope International grading all 50 states rated Michigan and California F for failing to protect children who are victims of sex trafficking. On Thursday October 3, 2013 the Michigan Senate introduced a 19 bill package addressing the issue of sex trafficking. These were referred to the Senate Families, Seniors, and Human Services committee. Provisions in SB 584 –SB 602 range from eliminating the statue of limitations for child sex trafficking and providing counseling programs for sex trafficking victims. Presently Michigan does not have safe harbor legislation. If a victim comes forward they can be charged with prostitution. The perpetrators use this to keep the victims in tow. Public education, advocacy and collaborative efforts are much needed.
In making Human Trafficking a Priority, AAUW hopes to inform and educate the public and its members on the issue and what each of us can do in our communities. For more information contact Penny Larsen, 892 8447, Kelly Laakso or Amy Kordus at 906 225-1346 or www.humantrafficking.msu.edu/ the Michigan Human Trafficking Website.