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Combating trafficking in persons

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "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 Kerry

Indentured servitude, forced labor, modern day slavery, forced prostitution, the sex trade, human trafficking or trafficking in persons are all ways to refer to human trafficking, a very real and widespread issue, that could be happening closer than one might think.

"[Human trafficking] is the second largest criminal activity in the world," said Cecilia Smith, sexual assault victim advocate, adding that the I-25 corridor is a heavy trafficking corridor.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team manages the Combat Trafficking in Persons program, working closely with the Office of Special Investigations and Security Forces to provide Schriever Air Force Base personnel with the information they need to help combat trafficking.

"Due to the seriousness of the crime-it is a grave violation of human rights, it's [potential] disabling impact on our military readiness, the Air Force has established a zero tolerance [policy]," Smith said.

According to the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2015, the Department of Justice initiated 208 federal human trafficking prosecutions of 335 defendants, for fiscal year 2014. The DOJ successfully prosecuted 184 of those defendants.

Air Force Instruction 36-2921 defines trafficking in persons as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat, use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse or exploitation." Examples include forced prostitution, forced labor and debt bondage.

One area where military and Department of Defense civilian personnel need to be extra cautious is on a deployment or overseas station, where some of the activities associated with human trafficking, such as prostitution, are legal.

"Even in those countries, you're still under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice so you can still be prosecuted," Smith said. "Even though it may be legal in that country, don't participate in those activities because you're [supporting criminal activity]."

Smith said personnel should be aware of their surroundings, both at home and abroad, and watch for indicators of a possible trafficking situation, including: signs of physical abuse, poor living conditions, having to live at their work site, being submissive or fearful, inability to speak to an individual without supervision, refusal to make eye contact or constantly looking down, inability or not allowed to speak English and being unpaid or paid very little.

"Trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse and psychological controls," Smith said. "While each victim will have a different experience, they share common threads. Trafficking victims live a life marked by abuse, betrayal of their basic human rights and control under their trafficker."

If personnel see something that could be human trafficking, they should report it to SFS or OSI. For more information, contact the SAPR office at 567-7634.
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