Uprising is a nonprofit agency dedicated to empowering Wyomingites in the battle against human trafficking and exploitation. Through their outreach efforts, they provide education and increase awareness of this ever-growing problem with the goal of preventing future victimization and exploitation of vulnerable individuals. Wyoming 2-1-1 reached out to Uprising recently for more information about their organization and services.
Q: One of Uprising’s primary goals is to help eradicate human trafficking and exploitation through awareness and education. What should the average person understand about this problem and how they can help within their own community?
A: I think the best thing an individual, business, or other organization can do to help is to take the time to get more educated about the issue. Uprising works hard to meet the need of communities who wish to host trafficking 101 training to learn more about what trafficking is and what it looks like in our own Wyoming communities, we share Wyoming-based case studies and talk about what you can do, no matter what role you play in your community, to help. Another great way to get educated is by taking a free online course to learn more. My favorite is the free Learn How to End Human Trafficking course with Justice U, you can find it at learnwithjusticeu.com. It is thorough, easy to use, and extremely informative, it also caps off with learning about what you can personally do in the fight against trafficking.
The second tip I have is to trust your gut. Trafficking usually does not look like what movies and media portray. It’s not typically the white van, or people locked in basements. It tends to look more like your neighbor across the street, or the student in your classroom. If your gut is telling you something is off, you should trust that. It never hurts to make a report and let a trained professional do the investigating. You never know when you could have intervened to save a life.
If you suspect trafficking I think the best call to make is your local law enforcement or 911. Especially if you believe someone could be in danger at that moment. If you feel suspicious of something or feel unsure about a situation, then I would call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888. They are trained to source credible, investigatable tips. They can answer questions and help you decipher situations you may be worried about. And in the end, it takes the responsibility off of yourself to just make a call.
Q: How serious is the problem of Human Trafficking in Wyoming?
A: Trafficking is a serious problem everywhere. It stems from the demand people have to purchase sex. Unfortunately, anywhere there are people, there will be some who desire to purchase sex, and someone there to capitalize on that. It is hard to know the scope of the issue, as trafficking is a highly under-reported crime. A big reason for that is that victims themselves are highly unlikely to self-identify as trafficking victims. Just like we have pictures in our heads of what we thought trafficking looks like, so do the victims. On top of that, many professionals who do come into contact with victims often misidentify them. Human trafficking will almost always intercept with other crimes, like domestic violence, and child abuse. It is common that we may identify what we see on the surface, but lack the education on screening more thoroughly for what else may be happening. We may never know the extent of the issue, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to work harder to try to uncover it, and that is just what Wyoming has been doing.