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Mention “human trafficking” in the same sentence with “Vermont,” and the reaction may be one of surprise and disbelief. Although Vermont may seem insulated from such a horrendous and insidious crime, even in the Green Mountain State human trafficking is hidden in plain sight. As with most public health issues, awareness is key to the prevention of human trafficking.
In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated January 11th as National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness. Human Trafficking is the act of compelling a person by force, fraud, or coercion to provide labor or a commercial sex act. Coercion can be subtle, and traffickers use manipulation and threats of physical, psychological, or emotional harm. Traffickers target those who are most vulnerable to exploitation: for example, children, runaways, the mentally or physically disabled, or those suffering from poverty, substance abuse disorder, neglect, or abuse. Victims are lured, manipulated, and controlled by the trafficker via false promises concerning relationships, employment, lifestyle, or drug availability. They are treated as commodities.
One of the challenges is to debunk the many myths surrounding sex and labor trafficking. Human trafficking is often confused with smuggling, evoking ideas of an international slave trade that has little to do with Vermont’s small towns and cities. Victims of trafficking in Vermont, however, include our own neighbors.
“We must confront the reality that human trafficking happens all over the world, including right here in our beautiful state,” said United States Attorney Christina Nolan, “We must combat this horrible form of abuse through education and outreach, providing victims the full slate of recovery and support services they need, and prosecuting their vicious perpetrators. To meet this challenge, the Human Trafficking Task Force convenes stakeholders from across the spectrum, from service providers to law enforcement. We are grateful to all who work together to advance the Task Force mission.”
“Make no mistake that human trafficking happens in Vermont,” said Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “We can begin to prevent this crime by understanding that there is no single profile for offenders or for those who are victimized. The Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force seeks to coordinate systemic responses to crimes of trafficking and to also identify trauma-informed, person-centered resources and interventions for victims, and I am grateful for their service.”
The Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2013 to forge a collaboration to pursue prosecution of perpetrators - and to protect, rehabilitate, and empower survivors of human trafficking through comprehensive social, medical, and legal services. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force comprises dozens of stakeholders and embraces a mission “to prevent trafficking of persons within the State of Vermont by implementing a multidisciplinary response to human trafficking.”
Buoyed in 2019 by a federal cooperative agreement between the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime and two Vermont Task Force leaders - the Vermont State Police and the Vermont Center for Crime Victims Services - the Task Force has been expanding its scope and reach. This powerful collaboration, with representation from victim service providers, healthcare providers, prosecutors, and law enforcement, is recognizing the month with the release of two key resources.
The Vermont Human Trafficking Resource Guide provides contacts, tips, tools, and referrals for professionals who may encounter a suspected trafficking situation; and the Labor Trafficking Fact Sheet provides essentials about a crime that can be easily overlooked or confused with other labor violations.
If you suspect an instance of human trafficking and would like to speak with a trained specialist who can help assess the situation and provide information and referrals, call 2-1-1, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or Text: BeFree.
If you or someone you know suspects that a child is being exploited or trafficked, please make a report to the Vermont Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-649-5285). Help and resources are available that can be offered to protect children in Vermont.
Anyone interested in obtaining training or for more general inquiries about the Task Force and its work can contact the United States Attorney’s Office through their Civil Rights Specialist at Emily.Collins2@usdoj.gov.