Sex trafficking occurs in plain sight. So an effort to combat it this month at the College World Series will be very public.
Volunteers will pass out informational cards around TD Ameritrade Park, and a message is already being regularly displayed on the large electronic billboard in the new Capitol District. The information on the cards and the display will cite indicators that someone may be a sex trafficking victim. The effort is part of the Not On My Watch campaign to stop sex trafficking.
A panel of local and state officials, including Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, introduced the Not On My Watch effort Thursday afternoon at the Omaha Marriott Downtown.
Sex trafficking happens everywhere, from downtown Omaha to small towns in Nebraska. Because the College World Series is a national event, it is an opportunity to more broadly spread the message.
“Many Nebraskans probably are not aware that human trafficking ... which is the modern form of slavery, still goes on in our state,” Ricketts said. “Events like the College World Series only make it worse. So it’s up to us as community members to come together to help bring it to an end.”
According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, which is leading the effort against trafficking, 900 people are sold for sex online in Nebraska every month; about 75 percent show signs of being trafficked.
Signs that a person could be under the control of a trafficker include bruises or scars, difficulty focusing, being persistently fearful, not being in control of their identification, being unable to speak for themselves and tattoos that appear possessive, like bar codes.
A frequent theme of the press conference was that those being trafficked for sex are victims rather than criminals.
“The oldest profession in the world is now being understood as the greatest myth in the world,” said State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln. “This is not a willful, consensual act between two adults. ... We have misunderstood this for millennia.”
Victims of trafficking are often the victims of other crimes as well.
“There is no person whose background or demographic excludes them from being exposed to trafficking or other forms of violence. Support is crucial,” said Molly Nocita, a survivor of sex trafficking who helps others who have been trafficked. “I’ve been raped. I’ve been strangled. I’ve been physically and mentally abused.”
Those who see signs of trafficking can call the National Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP or 911.