Fact #1: Truck drivers are a huge part of the demand for sex trafficking.
Fact #2: Truck drivers are fighting to help end the demand for sex trafficking.
Trucker Kent Kimmel was parked at a pilot truck stop in New Kent County, VA when he saw a young woman hiding behind a black-curtained RV window. “The black drapes didn’t make it look like a families’ RV. When I saw the young girl’s face, I said, that’s not going to happen.” After Kimmel called the sheriff’s department, deputies came and interviewed the woman, age 20, who told gruesome stories of torture, imprisonment, and forced prostitution by a man who kidnapped her in Iowa and transported her to Virginia.
The trucking industry makes up a large portion of the demand for sex trafficking victims across our country. Heavy trafficking activity occurs at travel plazas and truck stops where truckers are forced to park and rest. Young girls will come up to the trucks, knocking on the doors to offer sex, and truckers think they are hiring willing, young woman for sexual services, when in reality they are slaves whose controlling pimps keep the money. Tens of thousands of truckers crossing the highways of our country are in the unique position to recognize and report incidents of possible sex trafficking during their many hours on the road. Since 2009, truckers made more than 1,000 calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, giving tips that “have led to countless arrests and recoveries of victims across the country”, says hotline director Nicole Moler.
Here are two organizations that are leading the fight:
Truckers Against Trafficking
The non-profit organization Truckers Against Trafficking teaches drivers to recognize and report sex trafficking. Their mission is to make learning about trafficking a regular part of training and orientation in the trucking industry. TAT has made their own training videos that teach truckers about the results of human trafficking, and what the red flags are. An example would be seeing an SUV pull into a parking lot and a scantily clad group of girls who look underage get out and start going from truck to truck. When truckers see incidents like this, they are encouraged to call the police. They have also created The Freedom Drivers Project, a mobile exhibit that educates members of the trucking industry and the general public about the realities of domestic sex trafficking.
“I want to end slavery, so I have to focus 100% on the demand”, says Bo Quickel, founder of Vigilante Truth, a faith-based nonprofit that educates truck drivers on sex trafficking. Quickel aims to play a role in the end of sex trafficking by changing the culture of men to understand the value of women. He has put billboards on trucks with educational messages on sex trafficking and the national trafficking resource center hotline number, both of which aim to literally drive sex trafficking out of truck stops and rest areas. The trucks end up making truck stops “sex trafficking-free zones”, as pimps know the police will be called when the truckers see the girls. Quirkel has also created an app, Vigilante Trucker, which builds awareness of trafficking among drivers and lets them take photos of trafficking situations they may see and report it to a national database to rescue victims and help catch the pimps involved. Quirkel says, “We have to change men’s hearts and make them realize they’re not paying for sex, but they’re paying for rape.”
Thank you to Truckers Against Trafficking and Bo Quickel of Vigilante Truth for their innovative work, and meaningful impact in fighting to end trafficking in our country.
~ Deborah Zionts
Deborah Zionts is a member of the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee and the NCJW Chicago North Shore Board of Directors.