Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative Director Jeri Moomaw.
By DANA HERNANDEZ
FORT HALL —The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Tribal Health and Human Services, Victims Assistance Program hosted a Human-Sex Trafficking training at the Shoshone-Bannock Event Center on January 29.
The training was offered in three sessions and recommended for hotel/casino, law enforcement, victim advocates, counselors, and community members to bring awareness and recognize the signs of human trafficking. Presenters for this training were FBI Special Agent, Rick Wright and Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative (HTC) Director, Jeri Moomaw.
Wright has been an investigator with the FBI for 12 years. Back in 2007 he transferred to a taskforce that was structured in investigating crimes against children. He said, “in a metro sized area, about 10-15 children are sought out for human-trafficking and every year the numbers double.” It is common to find children as young as 12 years old. Wright said commercial sex is everywhere, if there is a hotel then assume it is happening. He said traffickers are good with choosing, recruiting, and advertising the most vulnerable, who are our at-risk youth.
In the trafficking business men are usually the ones in control, and 90% of them are criminals. To traffic someone they follow a process, where they identify the potential target, gather information and identity, exploit their vulnerabilities, and they establish power and control.
“Sex trafficking is not human smuggling, they are not necessarily imprisoned or chained, and they are not only women,” said Wright. Commercial sex is based on demand and supply, and humans have replaced drugs, because they are safer to sell. “Trafficking is an invisible thing and victims almost never talk about it,” said Wright.
Wright offered some tips on what hotel employees can look for when people are involved in a human trafficking activity:
A person who stays at the hotel for extended time with little luggage. Their reservation is repeatedly extended. People not staying at the hotel who will pay for extended stays. The check-in person is vague with registration info. Their room is requested close to exits and stairways. Their payments are paid with cash or a prepaid rechargeable credit card. Multiple rooms are purchased under one name. There are repetitive stays at the same hotel. The constant use of the “Do not Disturb” sign on the door. There is damage or drugs in the room. The male occupant of room frequently sits out in their vehicle of the parking lot. There are complaints of excessive noise, arguments and fighting. There are complaints of theft or robbery.
Wright also talked about possible indicators of a potential sex-trafficking victim: the person averts eye contact with others. A female who is with the male appears submissive or fearful. Food is always being brought up into to the room, and the female hardly ever leaves her room.
Wright said, “be observant and report it to law enforcement, because they usually know the community.”
The second speaker was Jeri Moomaw, who is the director of HTC, and has been working against human trafficking for over a decade. She is dedicated to combating commercial sexual exploitation, violence against women, and also the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).
Moomaw says, “human trafficking is the second largest enterprise in the world.” She explained exploitation and sex trafficking is nothing new, and has been happening since the first point of contact of the U.S. Many MMIP are victims of sex trafficking. “It’s layered with oppression and racism, and those from ages 9-10 are in demand.”
Those involved with sex trafficking, usually, have been involved within the systems of child protective services, child welfare, and the courts. The systems serve as a feeding of the vulnerable, into the hands of traffickers. “All of us can be an advocate for our society. We need to look at the core root and put in systems to fix the broken systems. We need to look at the victims through a lens of trauma,” said Moomaw.
Moomaw is a survivor of human trafficking and was not aware that she was a victim, until she got help and read the Trafficking Victim Protection Act. From her experience, she says victims rarely self-identify and will always protect the perpetrator; and this makes us question the dynamics of what relationships really are.
She suggested the Four Directions and the Corrections Department get a plan for what to do when a person is willing to tell their story. A victim of sex-trafficking doesn’t realize they were a victim until after they are free of their trafficker and substance abuse.
Moomaw began working as a consultant for a project with the Nisqually Indian Tribe at the Red Wind Casino, where she helped develop policies and procedures for a failed sticker project the security had started there. The failed project were bathroom stickers that had a phone number listed for people who needed help and were victims of trafficking, but the numbers didn’t work. The sticker project lacked training and partnerships with a shelter, advocates, and a team. This is how Safe Nisqually started and was an 18-month collaborative team project.
The team developed a protocol that was based on staff training, screening, interviewing, safety planning, the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) treatment, and a referral process. The protocols were the basis for their policies and procedures for what to do when a victim of sex trafficking wants help. “If you see something, say something,” said Moomaw.
“It’s important to know that wherever you are and in whatever situation you are in, you must never lose hope. You don’t just arrive at healing it is an ongoing process,” Moomaw concluded.