Military an asset in fight against human trafficking

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Hill Air Force Base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office hosted a breakfast at the base chapel Thursday to raise awareness about the local realities of human trafficking.

The event connected members of Team Hill and local community partners.

Human trafficking, a worldwide problem, is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion.

Keynote speaker Fernando Rivero, who has a master’s degree in public health, is a firefighter and local expert on human trafficking in the state of Utah. Through his involvement with the 4th Street Clinic Medicine Team in Salt Lake City, he provides health services to sex workers in Salt Lake City.

Rivero is an immigrant who says he has always been involved in advocating for immigrant issues. He said he used to hold the “common misconception” that human trafficking is uniquely an immigrant problem. As he pursued a master’s degree and worked among at-risk communities in Salt Lake, he realized it is a problem that is happening in Utah. 

He said reaching the military community with information about human trafficking was high priority.

“Military personnel are particularly valuable in the fight against (human trafficking) because many of them, in their travel to different locations and assignments, will likely encounter victims. This puts them in a unique position to potentially help in many locations,” said Rivero.

The 2015 Trafficking In Persons Report, a 378-page report provided by the state department on the global impact of human trafficking, states that the problem is complex because it isn’t predominantly in any one culture or country, the problem is truly global in nature, and it will take the global community working together to stop it.

“Money may be able to buy a lot of things, but it should never, ever be able to buy another human being,”  Secretary of State John F. Kerry wrote in the introduction.

No one knows the true economic impact, but the estimate is that the human trafficking — including forced human labor, sex trafficking, child labor and the illegal procurement and sale of human organs — worldwide is a $32-billion, mostly cash industry. It is the second-most-lucrative illegal industry behind drug trafficking.

Rivero says one of the biggest challenges to understanding the full scope of the problem is that a good portion of the industry doesn’t see themselves as victims. If it is the life they’ve known, he said, they think it is all they deserve. They are ashamed of what they are doing or in fear of the consequences of reporting that they are in danger.

Rivero says we should all pay attention when we go to stores that provide services, like nail salons and massage parlors. He said striking up a simple conversation can help you know if a person is at risk. He said questions like “Where is your family?” and “How long has it been since you’ve seen them?” may be enough to get them talking about the help they need.

If you need to report someone you suspect needs help, call the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force Tip Hotline at 801-200-3443 or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.

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