Task force advises: Severe weather preparedness includes guarding against human trafficking

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CULLMAN – As we prepare to enter Alabama’s Severe Weather Preparedness Week, Feb. 17-22, the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force advises that natural and other disasters can provide opportunities for traffickers to grow their businesses, whether commercial sex trade or forced labor. 

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warns:

At the onset of a disaster, disruption and chaos make it easy to exploit disaster survivors. Perpetrators of trafficking may pose as responders offering survivors help with housing, food or water.

During a disaster, disaster survivors may engage in survival strategies that make them vulnerable to being taken advantage of.  Children may be separated, sometimes permanently, from their parents.

In the aftermath of a disaster, rebuilding and cleanup create new markets for cheap or free labor, and disaster survivors may lose their main source of income and look for new types of work, including labor and commercial sex.

Labor trafficking victims perform work duties in exchange for basic necessities (food, water, housing) rather than money, are unable to freely choose where they live, and often have their identification documents held by their employers.

Sex trafficking victims often have to provide sex in exchange for basic necessities (food, water, housing) and may exhibit unexplainable injuries.  In public, they are often closely accompanied by a handler and may not even be allowed to speak to strangers or go to a restroom by themselves. Any commercial sex trade involving persons under 18 is considered trafficking.

If you have seen warning signs of human trafficking or think someone is trying to recruit you or someone you know, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit www.HumanTraffickingHotline.org to get help, report tips, find services and learn about your options.

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