It is a general truth that for trafficking to happen in a community, it requires some people to carry out the crime, others to be complicit and a great many more to be ignorant. The victims don’t just disappear in one place and magically reappear somewhere else, ready to be exploited. They must be recruited, transported and housed.
One common method used by sex traffickers to arrange meetings between their victims and clients is to utilise hotel rooms. In a recent case in Atlanta, Georgia, arrangements for a “date” were made with clients, who were then told which hotel to go to. After the traffickers had checked them out in the lobby to make sure they weren’t undercover detectives, they were texted the room number.
And what was awaiting those people when they entered the room? Certainly not a nice, innocent “date”. Eugh, that word just makes my skin crawl. These macabre euphemisms allow clients to distance themselves from what is actually going on here.
Because, this is what they will see when they enter that room: a terrified, traumatised teenage girl who just wants to go home, but can’t.
Did the clients realise this? Did the workers at the hotels, where this repeated abuse was happening, realise this? Probably not. I don’t know. I hope not.
Here’s what I think. People who enable trafficking are probably complicit through ignorance. So a client ordering a “date” probably believes the victim is willing. A hotel worker who sees young girls going in and out of rooms accompanied by older men probably thinks nothing more.
Why? Well, because the truth is too horrifying to contemplate. The girls were there, so why bother questioning it?
This is why STOP THE TRAFFIK and other anti-trafficking organisations target hotels and hotel workers. Even a basic knowledge of human trafficking and an awareness that it happens in hotels could lead to more rescues and convictions.
There are other initiatives that hotels can start to weed out trafficking, and which are being taken up across the world. Here’s one I particularly like: an organisation in Louisville, Kentucky, delivered soap to hotels with a message about trafficking and a hotline number.
There are also various codes of conduct that have been drafted which hotel chains are being urged to sign. These include giving staff training in how to spot signs of trafficking and providing information to guests and local stakeholders.
Some hotels resist these measures because they don’t want to be associated with trafficking in any way. According to them it’s better to pretend it’s not happening, so that guests and workers can carry on in ignorant bliss, than raise the issue and address it.
We don’t agree. To be ignorant of trafficking is one thing, but to actively resist attempts to fight it is something else, and something that I find problematic.
So what can you do? For starters, be aware if you’re staying in a hotel, and especially if you work in one. The indicators given on our resource SPOT THE TRAFFIK apply just as readily here, so make sure you’re up to speed on them. We have more resources here for you to be an activist as part of our No Room campaign – give it a try!