Four Tips to Help Communities and Churches Battle Human Trafficking: Baylor Expert

  • Human trafficking
    Large-scale national events like the Super Bowl draw attention to human trafficking, and it's an appropriate time to make people aware of the epidemic. (iStock photo)
  • Goatley
    Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, shares tips to help communities combat human trafficking. (Nikki Wilmoth, School of Social Work)
Jan. 30, 2017

Super Bowl shines spotlight on global epidemic

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Media contact: Eric M. Eckert, (254) 710-1964

WACO, Texas (Jan. 30, 2017) – Super Bowl festivities in Houston will be in full swing this week as the nation gears up for the NFL’s premier event on Sunday. Thousands of people will pour into the city. Unfortunately, those crowds will include those involved in human trafficking.

“We can expect to see an influx of out-of-town victims and trafficking solicitations during Super Bowl weekend. Much of that will take place online,” said human trafficking expert Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

Goatley said large-scale national events like the Super Bowl draw attention to human trafficking, and it’s an appropriate time to make people aware of the epidemic, which victimizes hundreds of thousands of people within the United States each year. Globally, an estimated 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking, resulting in a $150 billion industry, according to the International Labour Organization.

“Communities can make a difference in combating human trafficking,” Goatley said, “but it takes knowing your neighbor and your neighborhood and doing for the ‘least of these.’”

She offered the following tips to help communities better understand and combat human trafficking.

1. People must understand that human trafficking includes both sex and labor trafficking.

Human trafficking is the bartering or transactional engagement of a person for sex or labor, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, Goatley explained. Most communities and congregations focus on the "commercialized sex" part of human trafficking and often neglect those who are trapped in labor trafficking.

2. Human trafficking is cultural and contextualized to specific environments.

“When people say, ‘Tell me what human trafficking looks like,’ my response is always to reflect on how those in poverty are surviving in that community,” Goatley said.

In urban areas, she explained, it may look like the commercial sex industry (strip clubs, online ads, local prostitution tracks or brothels) or like day laborers who are financially exploited. It may look like childcare workers who never get days off, no breaks and little pay for labor; or it may look like a teenage runaway who needs food and barters sex for a meal or place to stay and is not allowed to leave.

In rural communities, she said, human trafficking may look like agricultural workers who are refused breaks and payment, or those working in toxic conditions and sweatshops. It may look like a family member bartering sex with a child to pay a bill.

“To best address human trafficking, people must know what's going on in their communities,” she said.

3. Human trafficking is no respecter of race, gender, class or religion.

“There is no ‘type’ of person that can be lured into human trafficking,” Goatley said.

In a recent column Goatley penned for Ethics Daily, she provided the following examples of those who’ve fallen victim to human trafficking.

“Through my work in trafficking, I've heard stories from the 15-year-old competitive swimmer from the elite swimming club who fell for a guy she met on the Internet. When he asked for a meeting at the local mall to "hang out," she didn't hesitate. She told her mother that she was meeting friends at the mall, left home and didn't return,” Goatley wrote.

“I've listened to a mother describe the struggle of providing for her family in her native country and the decision she made to sacrifice everything for a chance at a better life in America. She paid a coyote (smuggler) to help her cross into the United States, but upon crossing the coyote refused to let her go without a $10,000 ransom. She was forced to have sex with strangers until her debt was paid,” she wrote.

“I will never forget the story of the migrant worker who ‘followed the crops’ to provide for his family. He worked long hard hours in the fields picking a plethora of fruits and vegetables, pulling tobacco and tending to stables where he wasn't allowed breaks and paid a dollar and a half a day,” Goatley wrote.

Fortunately, she wrote, all of those stories are of survivors who were assisted by local churches and other human trafficking organizations.

4. Get involved.

“Get to know the needs within your community,” Goatley said.

Is there a local school that needs adopting?

Goatley said that research shows that third- and fourth-grade literacy rates have great predicting values on the path of a child's life.

Is your church located in an immigrant community?

Consider offering English as a Second Language courses (ESL), Goatley said. Research shows that immigrants that have better understanding of the English language are less likely to be exploited in the hiring process.

Is your church located within a community that experiences homelessness?

Consider adopting a homeless shelter, Goatley said. Research states that runaways, throwaways (children whose families have put them out) and newly homeless persons are at a higher risk for human trafficking within the first 48 hours on the street.

“Additionally, people should pray and support anti-human trafficking organizations and advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation,” Goatley said.

The national hotline number to report any case or suspicion of a case is 1-888-373-7888.

ABOUT ELIZABETH GOATLEY, PH.D.

Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., assistant professor, joined Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland Baylor School of Social Work in 2012 following the completion of her doctoral studies at Clark Atlanta University. Prior to Baylor, she was an intervention behavioral specialist and case manager for CHRIS Kids, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia, where she provided family-based therapeutic services to families and children with severe emotional disabilities. She has also served as a unit program director and victim advocate in the Commercial Sexually Exploited Children's Unit at Sandy Springs Police Department in Atlanta, Georgia.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT THE DIANA R. GARLAND SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK

Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work is home to one of the leading graduate social work programs in the nation with a research agenda focused on the integration of faith and practice. Upholding its mission of preparing social workers in a Christian context for worldwide service and leadership, the School offers a baccalaureate degree (BSW), a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and three joint-degree options (MSW/Master of Business Administration, MSW/Master of Divinity and MSW/Master of Theological Studies) through a partnership with Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. program. Visit www.baylor.edu/social_work to learn more.

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