Human trafficking: women aren't the only victims

It’s often recognized as a modern-day form of slavery. We’re talking about human trafficking and experts say it can happen anywhere.

(PHOTO: WEYI)

BIRCH RUN, Mich. - It’s often recognized as a modern-day form of slavery. We’re talking about human trafficking and experts say it can happen anywhere.

“It can affect everybody whether you are a victim or if you’re a perpetrator...it can be anybody.”

Sharlene Thomas is referring to human trafficking.

She sat in during a seminar at New Hope Church in Birch Run to learn more about this growing problem. A problem Amy Rouleau says is prevalent across Michigan.

“Michigan is one of the top destination states because we’ve got Toledo, Ohio so close, we’ve got Canada so close,” said Rouleau.

Rouleau is the Executive Director of "Restoration Place," a non-profit in Swartz Creek that provides a home for girls who are victims of human trafficking.

She says traffickers prey on vulnerabilities.

“The biggest groups that we have that are targeted are homeless or runaway kids,” Rouleau stated.

And those who have been sexually abused.

But Rouleau says it comes down to recognizing the signs such as branding, secrecy and...

“Promises of jobs you know oh you’re so beautiful you could be a model, luring them in through social media or through their job or through school,” said Rouleau.

When you hear human trafficking, you automatically think women and girls are the most common type of victim, but Rouleau says that’s not always the case.

“About half of those doing the recruiting are female and almost half of those who are sold for the purposes of sex are male,” Rouleau stated.

A statistic that surprised Thomas and has prompted her to stay more vigilant.

“I’m going to pay attention in rest areas, I’m going to pay attention in truck stops, probably talk to my younger nieces and nephews,” Thomas stated.

If you notice a person who may be a victim of human trafficking, Rouleau says the first step is to separate them from their trafficker to create a safe space for conversation. From there, you can provide resources.

If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.

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