According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, an estimated $32 billion in profits are made off 21 million people trafficked around the world. Human trafficking cases have increased from 3,272 cases reported in 2012 to 9,000 cases reported in 2017. These numbers only represent the reported statistics. Just think of how many more that went unreported.
When hearing about the human trafficking issues in the United States, you may think that it is only a law enforcement problem. Not only is law enforcement battling trafficking, but so are truck drivers! Truckers are out on the road every day, so they are considered the eyes and ears of the highways. Truckers get to see firsthand that human trafficking is taking over the United States.
Truckers Against Trafficking began on December 7, 2007, and by December 31, 2016, drivers had already made 1,589 calls and reported 503 cases of possible human trafficking locations. From these cases, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center was able to locate 1,098 potential victims, and 299 of those cases were minors. Before the Truckers Against Trafficking was founded, periodic tips were reported from the trucking industry.
Trafficking Targeting Truck and Rest Stops
With the holiday season quickly approaching, many individuals load their families up and hit the roads to celebrate their festivities with family and friends. According to DOT, the Thanksgiving holiday has 54 percent more drivers in the United States than any other day. With more drivers on the road, truck stops, and rest stops, see more individuals are known for sex trafficking. Since sex traffickers know these locations are going to be densely populated, traffickers will bring in girls from all around the world to generate more business.
Traffickers often favor truck stops because it is easy for the girls to go from truck to truck quickly and have more potential “clients.” Traffickers pick truck stops located miles from the next city to make it hard for the girls to run off. Trafficking puts truck drivers in a difficult situation because the women knock on their truck cab, asking for money in exchange for sexual favors. With an estimated 5,000 truck stops across the United States, law enforcement has a difficult time catching sex traffickers in the act and putting a stop to it.
Sex traffickers have different terms and codes they use to communicate their age, gender, race, and price regarding the person being offered sexual favors. Many truck drivers will refer to sex trafficking women as ‘Lot Lizards.’ Appreciatively, Truckers Against Trafficking is dedicated to putting a stop to human trafficking at truck stops. Truckers Against Trafficking offers media awareness and training to all drivers to help educate them that these women are performing sexual acts and selling their bodies without consent.
When Does it Become Trafficking?
Carrying out commercial sexual favors at a truck or rest stop is distinguished when an employer uses force, fraud, or coercion to gain control or make them believe they have no choice but to do what they are told. Examples include:
Force: Sexual or physical abuse included being raped repeatedly to gain submission. Confining the individual into a residence or employment restricts their movement or communication to the outside world. Some victims are forced to have abortions and are not allowed to get medical treatment.
Fraud: Sex traffickers will give false promises to victims of gaining a better life if they act as if the trafficker is their boyfriend or caregiver. Traffickers often lie about what type of working conditions, pay, and if sexual favors are required. Also, traffickers tell these victims that once they consent to be a member of the escort business, they have agreed to do all the above, and they are not sex victims.
Coercion: Traffickers often threaten to harm the victim or their family if they reveal they are involved in commercial sex trafficking to family members, friends, or members of the community. They may threaten their victims that they will face punishment, deportation, and jail time if law enforcement gets involved. Traffickers will take the victims’ personal identification documents, including their birth certificate, license, and any other documents stating who the victim is.
*Anyone who is under the age of 18 practicing commercial sex is automatically considered a sex trafficking victim, no matter whether force, fraud, or coercion was used.
Signs of Sex Trafficking in the Trucking Industry
Sex traffickers often prostitute young children, knowing it is more difficult for the child to get away or seek help. Truck stops are not only convenient for truckers but easier for traffickers since it is often secluded from the public eye. Sex traffickers have also made truck stops the place to pick up, drop off, or stay and pay for sexual favors from prostituted girls.
As mentioned above, the trucking industry refers to these girls as Lot Lizards, though many truckers are not involved in this sex trade. Those looking for sex trade often give signals such as stickers, code words including “commercial” over the CB, and flash their headlights. Some sex trafficking businesses are advertised online on trucker boards and massage parlors or billboards advertised near truck stops.
Sex trafficking is a very well-hidden crime and occurs under everyone’s nose. However, while out on the road, it is essential to know the warning signs of a trafficking victim.
- Signs of abuse or physical injury
- Does not make eye contact
- No social interaction
- Seems to be speaking from a script
- Does not have identification documents
- Appears to be poor or have no personal belongings
- Works long hours
- Lives at the place they are employed at
- Goes in motels with older men and calling their men their “boyfriend” or “daddy” (these terms are slang for pimp)
- Poor personal hygiene
- Branding/tattoos on their lower back and/or neck
- Sexually transmitted diseases that have gone untreated
- Having small children working in a restaurant
- Security measures on the place of the establishment, such as bars covering the windows on the inside, or barbed wire inside the fencing
- Not being allowed to go in public alone or to speak for themselves
How Can You Help?
Sex trafficking has become a severe issue in the United States. Truck drivers are already teaming up with Truckers Against Trafficking to gain knowledge on the tale-tell signs and how to report trafficking when they see it. You, too can help –
- Be Alert to Any Suspicious Activity
- Watch for any young teenage boys or girls hanging around truck stops, especially if they move from truck to truck.
- Listen for any suspicious codes or terms used on the CB radio, especially terms such as “Lot Lizard” or “Commercial Company.” Another thing to listen for is if anyone on the CB radio is giving descriptions of children, prices, or sexual acts. Call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 – 888 – 373 – 7888 if you notice any of these suspicious activities.
- Become a Defender – The Defenders USA is a group of men who have decided to stand against and not participate in commercial sex trafficking. Once you become a member, you will gain unique educational resources and tools and meet other individuals who have taken the stand against the child sex trade.
The individuals who form Truckers Against Trafficking urge anyone who is approached by a sex trafficking victim, sees this crime taking place, or comes in contact with a victim who is seeking help to contact The National Human Trafficking Hotline by TEXT 233733 (BE FREE) or CALL 1 – 888 – 373 – 7888.