Human trafficking — the buying and selling of human beings for labor or sex — is a growing problem in Indiana and around the world.
1. About 27 million people are being trafficked in the entire world
Human trafficking generates about $150.2 billion every year, according to the 2016 Indiana State Report on Human Trafficking.
2. But it’s hard to guess how many trafficking victims there are in the U.S.
That’s because a lot of different agencies deal with human trafficking and they all track data differently, but we can look at individual reports for some clues. For example, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of more than 31,600 cases involving more than 34,600 victims in all 50 states and Washington D.C. since it launched in December 2007. The Polaris Project, which runs the hotline, believes hundreds of thousands adults and children are trafficked in the U.S. every year.
3. The first human trafficking-related federal law was passed in 1910
The Mann Act made it a felony to convince or force a woman or girl to travel across state lines for prostitution. The language of the law was ambiguous when it was first passed, so it was used to prosecute some relationships deemed immoral (like cases of premarital sex or extramarital affairs). The Mann Act was amended in 1978 to cover issues regarding child exploitation and child pornography, then again in 1986 to protect victims regardless of gender and specify that the law applied to transporting people for criminal sexual activity.
4. But the first comprehensive federal law focused on human trafficking alone was passed in 2000
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 addressed human trafficking through prevention, protection of victims and prosecution of traffickers. It established the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the State Department, which investigates and works to prevent human trafficking in the U.S. and internationally.
5. Other federal human trafficking laws passed since 2000 have focused on protecting children, civil asset forfeiture and working with foreign governments to combat human trafficking
The Department of Homeland Security has a summary of all the federal human trafficking-related laws online.
6. The Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Persons (IPATH) Task Force was formed in 2005
When it first started, IPATH only had jurisdiction in the southern half of the state. It became statewide in 2013. IPATH includes more than 75 organizations, including law enforcement, health care providers and legal services. Now IPATH works to identify and protect victims, prosecute traffickers and prevent trafficking from happening in the first place.
7. Indiana’s first human trafficking law passed one year later
The law — IC 35-42-3.5 — defined human trafficking and criminalized it as a felony, as well as established a path for victims to get restitution.
8. Indiana lawmakers passed 8 human trafficking laws from 2012 to 2016
The first one passed in 2012 ahead of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. It removed the requirement to prove force, threat or force or fraud in human trafficking cases involving children younger than 16, according to the 2016 Indiana State Report on Human Trafficking. In 2013, another law updated that age to 18.
In 2014, the legislature passed laws that encouraged a study of online child trafficking and allowed the Indiana attorney general’s office to help law enforcement and service providers.
In 2015, Indiana lawmakers expanded law enforcements’ ability to seize property involved in human trafficking investigations that were deemed a public nuisance. Lawmakers also added a law requiring police to contact the Department of Child Services if they find a child victim of human trafficking, a law that defends child trafficking victims from prostitution charges and required police to share information about missing persons.
In 2016, laws were passed that increase penalties for possessing or making child pornography, expanded the Department of Child Services’ ability to identify child trafficking victims and updated the sex offender registry for human trafficking laws.
9. Hundreds of human trafficking victims have been identified in Indiana
The National Human Trafficking Hotline has helped identify more than 500 victims in Indiana since 2007, and about a third of those victims were children.
One IPATH partner reported that it served 178 trafficked children in 2016 alone. Of those, 167 were girls and 150 were ages 14 to 18.
Those are just the children who were identified — there were likely more victims in the shadows.
10. And Indiana prosecutors have filed at least 88 human trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor charges and 1,511 child solicitation charges since 2006
One of the most recent local cases involves Patrick Zimmer, a 28-year-old Mishawaka man currently serving a 6-year prison sentence. Zimmer pleaded guilty in March 2016 to two counts of child solicitation and one count of human trafficking. He was arrested in August in an undercover police operation involving online advertisements for sex with 13 and 14-year-old girls.
11. Victims are often trafficked by someone they trust — a family member, a friend, a partner or a supervisor at work
Sometimes the trafficker finds victims online and builds a trusting relationship with them before forcing them into sex or labor trafficking.
That’s what happened to the teenage daughter of a Fort Wayne mom named Crista. Watch her tell her story below.
12. Everyone in Indiana is considered a mandatory reporter for child abuse — and that includes children who may be victims of human trafficking
Indiana Code 31-33-5-1 states that any person who believes a child may be a victim of abuse or neglect should report it to local police or the Department of Child Services. You can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also text the BeFree hotline at 233733 from 3 to 11 p.m. EST.
Interested in learning more about how you can help stop human trafficking in our community? Attend the Human Trafficking in Michiana panel discussion on March 15 in Elkhart, hosted by Bashor Children’s Home and Global Link Distribution. Seating is limited, so register today.
Note: This event is presented by Federated Media Engaged. Federated Media Engaged and 95.3 MNC are both subsidiaries of Federated Media.