The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

Trafficking: The Reality

 

September 8, 2022 | View PDF



It's a theme used over and over on the big screen. Fun-loving young adults visit a foreign country and their week in Rome becomes a walk through a nightmare with a one-man army to the rescue. There's also the desperate immigrant who was led to a unofficial border crossing and obligated into forced labor, or worse, in exchange for payment of getting them across the border.

While these scenarios occur to some degree, the deeper story involves coercion and grooming, according to discussion at the August 29 Elevate community discussion.

Elevate is an effort to host discussions about social issues in an effort to bring about positive change to the Sidney community. The Elevate committee started with a question of “why aren't we doing something about...?” which led to the formation of a committee that organizes events to encourage discussion on community issues. The August 29 event is the second Community Conversation hosted by Elevate. The first was held in May on suicide.

The August 29 event included speakers on domestic violence, self-defense and state officials speaking on trafficking. Officials discussed what trafficking is and what it isn't, and dispelled some common misconceptions.

Glenn Parks, Coordinator of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force at State of Nebraska, provided insight into the two definitions of human trafficking: labor and sex.

“Part of my job has been to convince people it happens,” Parks said in the Aug. 29 meeting.

Parks started his presentation talking about sex trafficking. He said statistically, the sex trade goes much further west than Lincoln and Omaha.

“Per Capita, Grand Island has more escort ads than Omaha,” he said.

He showed a map that displayed sex trafficking from the metropolitan areas of east Nebraska to the western state line.

“The first half of this year, we had 12 convictions,” he said.

He added there have been nine sex trafficking convictions in the Scottsbluff area.

He said sex trafficking involves three parts: the sex act, a commercial exchange, and conducting the above without consent. All three are needed to define sex trafficking, he said. Any two of the three and the definition changes. Ultimately, he said, sex trafficking is forced prostitution.

Parks said labor trafficking is harder to prove. It is an area that uses more emotional coercion than physical force. According to Parks, labor trafficking is also linked to illegal immigration.

“A lot of the victims are foreign nationals,” he said.

The victims are held in a type of forced labor, modern slavery, with threats of physical confrontation, a recognized threat or non-physical coercion such as calling ICE, reporting the victim committed a crime. The Labor trafficking victims are often in bondage regarding the cost of transporting across the border, and then inflated costs of housing and food. The draw, Parks said, is the U.S. minimum wage is much higher than wages in South and Central American countries.

Chad Rademacher, a member of the Elevate committee, said he learned that many victims of trafficking are groomed into the trade. He said he is also concerned that people are tracked on the internet for trafficking purposes. Trafficking also involves victims of both genders, Rademacher said.

“It's a shame. It's very real,” he said.

He said he left the event feeling it sparked interest and curiosity in keeping young people safe.

Cheyenne County Sheriff Adam Frerichs, also a member of the Elevate committee, thought the meeting was very informative. He said it stressed being safe online.

“That was the high point to me,” he added.

If you or someone you know has been involved in trafficking or domestic violence, contact the DOVES at 866-95DOVES, or test 515-599-6620. The 24-Hour Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. You may also text "HELP" to 233722 (or BeFree) to reach the hotline.

 

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