LINCOLN, Neb. – Lawmakers have given second-round approval to a bill that would require casinos to display posters sharing information on human trafficking, as the bill’s sponsors say victims can be kidnapped there. However, sex trafficking often doesn’t come from strangers — it’s those around you.
“It’s much less that Hollywood version and much more subtle,” said Assistant Attorney General Glen Packs. While abductions do happen, they are rare.
Instead, he said most often sex trafficking happens when an older man encounters a woman with low self-esteem, susceptible to manipulation.
Amanda Novotny, an advocate manager for the Women’s Center for Advancement in Omaha, said victim vulnerabilities are not just a matter of emotional desires — but of practical needs. She works with survivors long-term to establish new lives and support systems and sees that the vulnerabilities used against them were often cases of homelessness or financial desperation. Unfortunately, minorities are often facing those challenges. That may be why minorities and Native Americans often go missing at a disproportionate level.
“The majority of [survivors] are trafficked by someone they know,” said Novotny. They can be parents, spouses, friends, loved ones, coworkers, or someone they met at church.
Sex trafficking can even come from classmates. Last month, in Grand Island, a teen was charged with sex trafficking for eliciting dozens of pornographic photos from other minors.
But sex trafficking is not prostitution. There is one major difference — the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
“The hurdle is recognizing it’s happening,” said Packs.
Novotny suggested learning the signs of trafficking victims. Those include isolating relationships, carrying possessions they can’t afford, new cuts and bruises, letting others speak for them, and avoiding authorities.
While Packs said there are a lot of misleading statistics on sex trafficking because it is so hard to track, he trusts Polaris. Novotny also recommended this project. Polaris has a lengthy explanation of how traffickers target victims, and how they groom and manipulate victims.
If you are suspicious, you can also reach this hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
Packs said the hotline will direct all tips to his office, which then discerns which law enforcement will look into the tip.
With enough awareness, advocates and lawmakers say the issue can be addressed.
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