TWIN FALLS (KMVT/KSVT) — Human trafficking is a widely discussed topic and there are always causes working to prevent it. But just how big of a problem is it in Idaho and what does it look like?
According to the U.S. Department of State, there are about 27.6 million people who have been exploited for human trafficking worldwide. Nevada is one of the top 10 states where human trafficking takes place.
The U.S. Attorney for Idaho, Josh Hurwit, defines human trafficking as the “exploitation of individuals who are very vulnerable members of society and … the intent of it is to hide what’s going on.”
Hurwit says the most common victims are usually runaway youth and people who don’t have a good support system.
In southern Idaho, deception is a common tactic to catch victims.
Noemi Juarez, the program director at Voices Against Violence, a Twin Falls area organization that helps crime victims, explains how victims are deceived and coerced.
“We’ve dealt with promises of employment, promises of shelter, promises of better futures for not only themselves, but also to support their family as well,” says Juarez.
Human trafficking is usually seen as labor or sex trafficking, but there are other ways.
“There’s organ trafficking in the black market. From a generalist state, it’s more so looking at sex and labor trafficking,” says Kevin Zielenski, program manager for the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition.
Often, Zielenski says the trafficker is someone who has groomed and had an intimate relationship with the victim.
“The false boyfriend luring that individual preys on their vulnerabilities, getting that love and affection, making them feel like they’re the only ones and how special they are to them,” Zielinksi explains.
Voices Against Violence has seen the negative effects of this.
“Last year, we had an abundance of underage women that were coming to us that had been trafficked. In their country, folks were promised they could make money in the U.S. and that they can help their families back home. When they got here, they ended up being raped and actually had children,” Juarez said.
Victims of human trafficking have resources available to them. Reach out to the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition, Voices Against Violence and the Human Trafficking hotline. The hotline number is 888-373-7888.
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