FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Human trafficking can happen anywhere, at any time, including here in northeast Indiana.
A 2019 report from the Polaris Project shows there were 157 confirmed trafficking cases in Indiana. Although regional data was not available, a heat map within the report shows a concentrated amount of those cases were reported in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month. Throughout January, advocacy groups have dedicated time educating others on preventing these crimes and supporting survivors. One group is the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking (ICESAHT), who is hosting a series of training sessions and conferences all through January.
ICESAHT Director of Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives Kate Kimmer says there are many misconceptions around these types of crime. Part of the reason why many people do not understand human trafficking is because it is often sensationalized in films and other media.
“Human trafficking, like every other crime type, happens, most often, in community, by community,” Kimmer said. “Most people experience human trafficking. Their traffickers are people that they know. They may be family members, they may be friends of the family, they may be leaders in the community, they may be the high school football coach.”
There are different types of human trafficking that range between age groups – labor trafficking, sex trafficking and forced marriage – but the premise behind these acts are similar. Victims of human trafficking are often in a vulnerable position where their basic needs aren’t being met. That’s when a trafficker could come along and exploit or coerce them into labor or commercial sex.
Kimmer adds that anyone can do their part to prevent human trafficking, without even volunteering with an advocacy group or going to a workshop.
“Care about people in your community,” Kimmer said. “Care about kids that are in youth groups with your kids, that are in school with your kids. That’s another really huge myth about trafficking, that this is somehow completely removed from our daily lives.”
Along with the ICESAHT, the Anti-Trafficking Network of Northeast Indiana and Resiliency Foundation are a pair of local anti-human trafficking groups dedicated to preventing these crimes in northeast Indiana.