People trafficking in Colorado is often misunderstood. Many people do not believe that human traffickers are operating here or they do not know what human trafficking really means. The Colorado Human Trafficking Council (“The Council”) has developed a campaign to raise awareness of all forms of human trafficking in Colorado and clear up many of the misconceptions.
The Council’s campaign uses lived experience narratives, told from a human trafficking perspective, to illustrate what human trafficking is and how a trafficker can take advantage of anyone, often taking advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation and making promises that he want / need and then control through violence, fraud or coercion. The council compiled these chronicles from the details and facts of many different trafficking cases and experiences (to protect identity). Although some aspects of these lived experiences are difficult to read, hear, believe, or accept, the facts and circumstances are all true and authentic.
One example is James. James’ story is based on a real-life experience of a man who took a job on a farm. The farm belonged to a relative of his, and James believed that he and his family would have a safe place to live and work and make enough money to support him and his family. However, when James and his family moved to the farm, they were trapped. James was told he owed a debt for the move, plus rent and food. They lived in appalling living conditions, they were forced to work without pay, they were threatened, they had no financial means and they had nowhere to go.
This is terrible, shocking, and maybe difficult to understand because it contradicts what many people believe. Here are some common misconceptions that James’ experience runs counter to:
Human trafficking means forced sex: The case of James shows that human trafficking is not always sex trafficking, it also includes human trafficking. Human trafficking occurs in many different industries and communities, including agriculture and rural areas.
Traffickers are strangers who snatch people off the street: James’ case shows that not all human traffickers are strangers. A family member can also be a trafficker. Often times, a trafficker is someone who has a personal connection with the victim – someone the victim trusts.
Human trafficking is smuggling or kidnapping: like James, many victims are looking for a solution to a personal challenge (they need work or a home) and are happy to go with them. Instead of being physically forced into their situation, they are intimidated and lied to.
Human trafficking only happens to young girls: As James narrative shows, not all victims are girls. All genders and ages can fall victim to the coercion and manipulative tactics of a trafficker.
A victim can escape and get help: Obviously, it would not be easy for James to leave. Traffickers use tactics such as threats and bondage to instill fear and control their victims.
The Council believes that the better we understand how a trafficker exploits people, the better we can identify, report and ultimately prevent human trafficking from happening in the first place. Additionally, one of the most important things we can do is develop compassionate awareness of victims and survivors, and promote dignity and justice for all.
Colorado community members can make a difference. Find out more and report a suspicious situation. By taking the time to understand what human trafficking is and by being aware of the different species that occur here in Colorado, we can all help stop this crime.
Call 866-455-5075 or write 720-999-9724 to report or learn information about available services.
Established by law in 2014, the council reports to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office for Victims Program, and coordinates state-wide anti-trafficking efforts aimed at preventing human trafficking in Colorado. Committed to the justice and dignity of human trafficking survivors, the 35-member council represents governmental and non-governmental agencies, lived experience experts, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, regional coalitions and task forces, legal services, victim services, science and faith-based organizations.
The council should:
● Bring together leadership from community-based and nationwide anti-trafficking efforts
● Establishing and improving cooperation between municipalities and districts within the state
● Establish and improve comprehensive services for victims and survivors of human trafficking
● Assisting in the successful prosecution of human traffickers
● Help prevent human trafficking in Colorado