For All Seasons recently sponsored the Red Sand Project to educate the public and bring awareness about human trafficking. Participants poured red sand into sidewalk cracks and used the time to start a discussion about the causes and effects of human trafficking and exploitation.
“The red sand represents the victims of human trafficking who have slipped through the cracks, yet may still be hiding in plain sight,” commented Kristy Mirando, Director of Victim Services at For All Seasons.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and it involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every state and every country is affected by human trafficking, including Maryland, which has one of the highest rates of “domestic” human trafficking in the nation.
“According to the State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, they find out that human trafficking takes place in some form or fashion in 187 countries on the planet. It takes place in all states in the United States. It takes place in all counties in Maryland. It is the second-highest profiting criminal enterprise in the U.S. In Maryland, there have been some children’s sex violations reported to the social services agencies in almost every county and that number goes up,” reports Ed Thomas, Co-Chairman of the Eastern Shore Human Trafficking Task Force.
Over the last three years, there have been sex trafficking arrests across the Shore in Easton, Cambridge, Federalsburg, Denton, and Salisbury.
Kristy Mirando, Director of Victim Services at For All Seasons, points out the red flags of a human trafficking situation, stating, “Some of the red flags of a human trafficking situation are homeless youth, truancy, chronic run-aways, appearing scared or nervous, tattoos or branding, withdrawing from family, school, or church, always appearing tired.”
Regarding industries where the risk of human trafficking is increasing, Thomas states, “On the Eastern Shore, the hospitality industry, particularly in Ocean City where there are so many hotels, motels, and restaurants, employ a lot of people and in some cases take advantage of those people. There are also some concerns in the poultry industry and seafood processing. The agriculture business can also be a place where people are made to do more than they are being paid for.”
Law enforcement has been investing over the years in helping officers understand human trafficking and training them about what to do. According to Mirando, a victim who calls the For All Season’s hotline gets help with creating a safety plan, if that is what they are comfortable doing at the time.
She adds, “Every client is so different. Whatever their needs are we try to accommodate and ask each other for support. We can build trust with them and connect them to whatever services they are in need of and find them emergency shelter. I can collaborate with Ed and the Eastern Shore Human Trafficking Team to find them a safe place to go. If someone has an idea we just talk to each other through the task force and see what we can come up with together and brainstorm for that person.”
Thomas explains, “There are people who are available who are professional at this – who are very caring and they know the sensitivity of the survivors. That even includes the law enforcement folks. Their attitude is we need to care for and provide services for them. There are 10 or 12 local human trafficking task forces in the state of Maryland and they are tied together. They are linked together in terms of they know each other and know what their capabilities are.”
Ed Thomas encourages individuals and organizations who what to know more about the topic of Human Trafficking to reach out. He states, “Feel free to ask us to come meet with you, to help you provide you with information. We want to do whatever we can to share information and increase the awareness and for every person prevent from being trafficked that saves a lot of people from having tortured lifestyles.”
For crisis support on the Mid-Shore contact the For All Seasons 24-HR Hotlines: 410.820.5600 for English or 410.829.6143 for Spanish or to text in English and Spanish.