Trucker Kevin Kimmel spotted an old RV at a truck stop last year that caught his attention. He says that he noticed “a young girl peek out and be abruptly pulled back from the window, and the shade pulled back over it.” Kimmel called the police because he recognized the warning signs of forced prostitution thanks to training from an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking or TAT; that call ended weeks of physical and sexual abuse for the victim.
Since its founding six years ago, truckers partnering with TAT have helped free hundreds of trafficking victims, including nearly 250 minors. Kylla Lanier, one of TAT’s co-founders, says Kimmel’s actions are exactly what TAT is all about: “Trafficking happens everywhere. It's happening in homes, in conference centers, at schools, casinos, truck stops, hotels, motels, everywhere," she explains. "You know, it's an everywhere problem, but truckers happen to be everywhere."
Although people often think trafficking doesn’t happen close to home, the truth is that trafficking takes place in all types of communities around the world. Fortunately, according to TAT, truckers are in an excellent position to help: “As the eyes and ears of our nation's highways, [they] are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who seek to exploit our transportation system for their personal gain.” TAT provides training in how to recognize possible trafficking victims, including subtle signs like a lack of access to their own ID and cash or conversation that sounds scripted, as well as resources to help those trapped by traffickers and pimps.
TAT has partnered with hundreds of trucking companies to make their resources widely available. Since starting their training programs, over 225,000 truckers have been trained and officially registered with the organization. Law enforcement is also on board, with many states actively encouraging TAT training for all truckers; beginning this summer, the state of Ohio will require TAT training in order to receive a commercial driver’s license.
Most importantly, the truckers and truck stop employees who work with TAT now recognize that traffickers are out there -- and just how much they can do to help. “Before if I saw a prostitute, I would have thought, 'Hey, that's what they want to do,'” says Sam Tahour, District Manager for TA Travel Plaza. “Now I know what signs to look for. I know what actions to take... This is what's going on out there, and these people need a hero.”
To learn more about Truckers Against Trafficking on NPR, visit http://n.pr/29SMWYt or visit their website at http://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org/
The powerful young adult novel, "Dime," tells the story of a young American teen who is trafficked into the sex trade, for ages 14 and up, at http://www.amightygirl.com/dime
For an excellent though challenging novel about one Nepalese girl's experience being trafficked into prostitution, we highly recommend "Sold" for readers 14 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/sold
For books to inspire children and teens to make a difference in the lives of others, check out our blog post “Making an Impact: Mighty Girl Books about Charity and Community Service” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10983
For a gripping memoir by a woman dedicated to ending the trafficking of girls in the U.S. as the founder of Girls Are Not For Sale, who herself is a survivor, check out “Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale” at http://amzn.to/1X2brW7