January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and to that end Passages, Inc., of Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion counties provided a program on January 30 to inform the public about the problem.
The program was presented by Robin McMillan of Reynoldsville, the legal advocate for Passages, Inc., and was held at the Reynoldsville Fire Hall. It included information about human trafficking such as the causes and what can be done to help those involved.
Early in the presentation, McMillan pointed out the differences between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking. While smuggling is voluntary and involves bringing a person illegally into the country, human trafficking is involuntary, is exploitation-based, and doesn’t need to cross any borders.
McMillan also pointed out that Human Trafficking can either be for labor or for sex, with the majority of the cases involving sex trafficking. Of those cases, 80% are female and 20% male. The highest at-risk children are runaways or throw-aways, children whose parents throw them out of the house. Some have mental health concerns while others have unaddressed trauma in their lives. LGBTQ individuals and those in poverty are also at risk. Another contributing factor is the high use of social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or Snap Chat.
The people doing the trafficking can be anyone, from parents to pimps, and it can happen anywhere.
To emphasize her point, McMillan referred to sex cases occurring in recent years in Clarion and Jefferson counties as well as a Labor Trafficking case in Clearfield County. She added that Pennsylvania was ranked seventh in the nation in 2019 for Human Trafficking. Pittsburgh was recently named in the top ten cities for Human Trafficking due to the opioid crises and easy access to major highways.
McMillan encouraged the large crowd that attended the session to be alert.
“Be aware that it is out there and the kids are at risk,” she said.
After a question and answer session with McMillan and Marlene Austin, the director of Passages, Inc., the attendees were directed to a resource table with literature and other items about the problem.More information can be found on the Passages, Inc. web site https://www.passages-inc.org.