A friend on my Facebook page mentioned seeing an ad in Chicago that said “you may be the first person they see, ask the right questions.”
It was sponsored by a group against human trafficking. Great ad, but not enough, because this friend then proceeded to ask me, “So what are the right questions?”
It was such an important question to ask that I decided to go ahead and post some options on here for others to read as well. I feel quite inadequate to be honest, admitting quite freely that I’ve never been in the situation of meeting a girl who I thought might be trafficked. However, here’s what has come to mind about what some of the right questions–and response in general–should be if you see a potential trafficking situation.
1. Assess what you see. Is it a young girl with an older man and does she look scared? Does she have to ask him for simple things like to go get a drink or go to the bathroom? Does she looked drugged? Visual, try to get as much information as you can.
2. If the girl goes into a situation where she is alone (the bathroom, a store), you can follow and try to strike up a conversation with her. “Hi. My name is ____________. What’s your name?” (This is a casual way to get her name before she is frightened of you–may not work) If that makes her react in a frightened way (like she keeps glancing to see if someone is watching her, as if she’s not allowed to talk with people), that’s a pretty clear sign something is wrong.
3. Ask the girl, “I don’t mean to scare you, but are you in trouble? Can I help you?” If she again responds frightened, or backs away, you may want to add, “Are you here against your will?”
4. If there’s an opportunity, you could also ask, “Can I call someone for you? Do you want me to call your parents?”
5. Based on how she responds, you might get a clear idea of what to do next. Obviously, if she does ask you to call someone, then by all means, do so. The more likely response would be that she rejects your offer out of fear and either turns away from you or leaves and finds her companion to keep out of trouble.
6. If this scenario happens, try to get the girl’s name if possible. Then, as soon as she leaves, call the trafficking hotline (888-373-7888, or as I like to remember it, 888-3737-888) and tell them exactly what you saw and what happened. If you can tell them descriptive things, like what she was wearing or jewelry or defining characteristics like a birthmark or even nail polish color, everything you tell them can help them, and especially if you got her name. The human trafficking hotline has access to law enforcement across the country and would likely know about this girl’s disappearance even if she came from another state.
7. Know that your intervention, even if you feel weird or embarrassed, could save this girl’s life. It has happened where a man just saw something strange–did not even interact with the person–and called the hotline. His one phone call resulted in the shut down of a 13-state wide trafficking ring and rescued 9 minors.