Human trafficking: Insight from those who represent victims after they're rescued

Jul 31, 2013

The FBI recently completed a national sweep that led to the arrests of 150 pimps and the rescue of 105 children who were forced into sex slavery. The sweep was called the Innocence Lost National Initiative.

There were ten children (as young as 13-years-old) rescued in Detroit and 18 arrests were made, which put the city in the number two slot in the national sweep's ranking.

Elizabeth Campbell, a staff attorney for the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan, wasn't surprised by those numbers, even though they were higher than many of the cities that were included. 

"Every American community has this problem, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'd like to believe that [higher numbers in Michigan] are because we have great cooperation with law enforcement, but we also have certain factors that have made us susceptible to such operations."

Campbell is talking about Michigan's geographic location. Because the state is on the border, it is more vulnerable to this type of activity. She also attributed Michigan's ranking to the recent economic strife in Detroit.

"At the clinic we currently represent 52 clients, 20 percent of which are U.S. citizens who are born and raised in Michigan."

Why don't more victims escape?

Campbell said it's easy to underestimate the power of psychological coercion that a pimp can have over young people. 

"We're talking about young, vulnerable individuals who have had a hard go of it their entire life. And pimps can tell them they'll 'love' them unconditionally. No matter what they do they'll come home, and have a place to go home to with their pimp. It's not what we envision to be love but it can be stability that they've never known before."

Campbell voiced her concerns about young people over the age of 18 who may not have been addressed with the same attention that kids under 18 were given in the national sweep.

"I think we missed an opportunity to identify adult victims of human trafficking and offer them services."

A resource that everyone can take advantage of is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Tips can be reported online using this link, or you can call 1-888-373-7888. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.