Human Trafficking: Fighting Modern-Day Slavery in the U.S.

with Caroline Diemar of Polaris

According to the ILO, approximately 40 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, a multibillion-dollar criminal industry.

Caroline Diemar, Director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, details the many forms of modern-day slavery and shares how her organization is fighting this global epidemic.

Posted on:

January 06, 2020

Hosted by: Ellee Pai Hong
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Hong: Polaris defines human trafficking as a business of stealing freedom for profit impacting close to 25 million people worldwide. Hello. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Ellee Pai Hong. From labor trafficking to sex trafficking, the number of cases reported to the National Human Traffic Hotline continues to climb across the United States. With me to discuss this issue is Caroline Diemar. She is the director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline at Polaris. Caroline, thanks so much for coming in. Appreciate your time today.

Diemar: Thanks for having me.

Hong: You know there was a 25% jump in cases of human trafficking from 2017 to 2018. That is a startling statistical jump, but that really doesn't scratch the surface of really what's happening, right?

Diemar: Right. So most of human trafficking goes unreported, at least for now. So more awareness about it is allowing us to have more and more people reach out for help to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. While we talk about that 25% increase, it's not necessarily a 25% increase in prevalence, but more about awareness of the issue of human trafficking. And also that there is a hotline out there for survivors to reach out for assistance.

Hong: And in terms of awareness, people hear human trafficking and oftentimes they think of sex trafficking, but labor trafficking is most likely a more prevalent issue, right?

Diemar: Right. And a lot of times, people aren't reporting labor trafficking for many different reasons. Some can be for fear or just that, again, not knowing that there is a place for people to reach out for assistance.

Hong: And in terms of that labor trafficking, it goes across various different industries.

Diemar: Right. And it could be in agriculture, it can be in carnivals, it can be in hospitality. We actually put out a report a couple of years ago called the 25 types of modern-day slavery and it outlines the different types of trafficking within sex trafficking and labor trafficking. And it actually highlights different victim profiles and trafficking profiles. And we also, after that, released a intersections report that talks about the different industries where trafficking intersects and helps those industries understand how they can better assist in the fight against trafficking.

Hong: This is so common that it's probably happening in your neighborhood and you don't even know it because the appearance of human trafficking is very different than what you imagine it to be.

Diemar: Right. Exactly. Human trafficking can happen to anybody. It could happen to a foreign national, a US citizen, adults, minors, people of any different ethnicity, any gender. It happens in Mexico. It happens in Canada. It happens in the US, and we're actually really fortunate that there are hotlines that we have helped to develop in Canada and in Mexico so we can have that cross-border collaboration with each other.

Hong: You know, there's a startling statistic I read that says buying and selling human beings is $150 billion industry that robs 25 million people, we heard this a little bit earlier, around the globe of their freedom. When you hear those statistics, it's so startling and so scary. It really is not female, not male, not foreign national, US citizen, it's a human rights issue.

Diemar: Right, and these rights are being robbed of these individuals. But again, it's really important that we have been able to establish this hotline within the United States where survivors can reach out for assistance 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Hong: And you added a texting component to this as well, because you want to offer these victims that anonymity that leads to protection possibly in their situations.

Diemar: Right. Actually, individuals can reach out to us in phone, text, chat, e-mail, and an online tip form, but we have seen that texting is a preferred method of communication for survivors to reach out for assistance. And in fact, we had a 36% increase in survivors reaching out for assistance in 2018 over 2017. We were excited. While we don't want to see more and more survivors, we were happy to see that that trust is growing within the hotline and that individuals are reaching out to us to get that assistance. We are able to connect survivors to shelter, case management, crisis management, transportation. If an individual is looking to report to law enforcement, we can help facilitate that. But the National Human Trafficking Hotline is really that kind of, we triage and then that connector to the different services that are available to them.

Hong: There's never a simple solution to help out these folks, right?

Diemar: No, it's really not. It's very complex. It needs to be a multidisciplinary approach where we're bringing in many different industries to help with them.

Hong: Such a scary problem. Caroline, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Diemar: Thank you.

Hong: And thank you for joining us as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I'm Ellee Pai Hong.

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