MORE THAN A NUMBER: National Human Trafficking Hotline reaching more survivors

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"A lot of times we find with survivors, they call multiple times to kind of build that support and trust, that's been taken away from them before they might actually ask for help."

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. We spoke with lawmakers, local officials, doctors, health officials, etc. ..on how they are trying to protect those victims.

WASHINGTON (WDVM) – You may have heard of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, but it’s a lot more than just a number to call when someone needs help.

Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has been a vital asset for those seeking resources and help.

“Before, the National Human Trafficking Hotline existed, survivors didn’t have a resource they could reach out to 24/7, every day of the year,” said Caroline Diemar, director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Diemar says it isn’t just a place to report tips, it can connect survivors to localized resources like law enforcement or legal help. It also provides a compassionate listening ear for someone who just needs to talk.

“A lot of times we find with survivors, they call multiple times to kind of build that support and trust, that’s been taken away from them before they might actually ask for help,” she added.

From 2017 to 2018, there was an 85% increase in survivors calling from Maryland.

“The hotline handled 25% more cases of human trafficking in 2018. While that’s a really sad thing to say, it’s great to see that more people are reaching out and that we’re collecting that information,” Diemar said.

You hear the word “hotline” and a phone call comes to mind, but you can actually contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline, by text, online chat, web forms and email. Texting and online chat were both added as communication options last year.

“We expect those to increase the amount of youth that are reaching out, which is a really great outlet for them because they are comfortable. It’s proven to be great for survivors, it gives them more anonymity and privacy when they’re reaching out,” Diemar said.

The hotline handles calls for all kinds of human trafficking. The most common types they handle are labor and sex trafficking.

“People in labor trafficking situations, same in sex trafficking but even more so in labor trafficking, might not recognize that they are a victim of trafficking. They may not feel comfortable reaching out for fears of repercussions,” she said.

In sex or labor trafficking cases, a victim may not have access to their own documents, they may have limited control over their finances, and they may be highly monitored and not able to speak for themselves.

They may show physical signs of abuse, like bruises. Sometimes they may owe their trafficker money that they’re not able to pay back, and sometimes people are hired under false pretenses about the nature of their work.

The hotline collects a lot of data about the current state of human trafficking in the U.S. and in local communities. Polaris, the non-profit that runs the hotline, hopes that information can make a difference.

“Communities can really look at tailoring their response, not just totally on sex trafficking or labor trafficking, but looking at the different types and tailoring it to what it looks like in their communities,” Diemar said.

The phone number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. You can text the hotline at 233-733, that’s “BeFree.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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