Educational campaign aims to reduce trafficking of vulnerable population

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Contributed by Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities

The CDC states that in the United States, people with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victimized than people without them and children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be victimized as children without them. January is recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Homeland Security Investigations in Alabama estimates the commercial sex industry generates $110 million each year in the Birmingham metro area, which does not include illegal activity in strip clubs or illicit massage parlors, nor child trafficking, which is more difficult to quantify.

To address this issue, the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities has tapped Fowler Davis, LLC to produce an educational campaign for trafficking of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The campaign will include brochures, fact sheets, and videos on different types of exploitation. “Our goal is to provide prevention education and empower this vulnerable population to become educated to know the signs to help prevent them from being exploited” states Barbara Fowler, Co-Owner of Fowler Davis, LLC.

Darryle Powell, Executive Director of Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities {ACDD}, says “persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been a target population for traffickers due to their vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is especially gratifying to know that Fowler Davis will empower this population through educational campaigns to help prevent them from becoming victims of exploitation and trafficking.”

Barbara Fowler has become a strong advocate in the anti-human trafficking movement in Alabama and across the U.S. Barbara says, “We commend the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities on being proactive with this campaign to provide resources and preventive education to this highly- vulnerable population.

Alabama will be the leader with this type of educational campaign throughout the United States.”

“Human trafficking is a major problem hiding in plain sight in Alabama. It is a modern form of slavery that’s happening in every city and town. Alabama has a high percentage of familial trafficking by a parent, family member, caregiver, or trusted adult. Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities have difficulty understanding risky situations or how to avoid risky persons,” states Jeff Davis, Co-Owner of Fowler Davis, LLC.

If you see any suspicious activity related to possible human trafficking, do not attempt to confront, as this could jeopardize their safety and your own. Call 9-1-1 immediately with any details. If you need help, or to report suspected human trafficking to Federal law enforcement, please call the Dept. of Homeland Security Blue Campaign at 1-866-347-2423. For help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-3737-888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

IMPORTANT TRAFFICKING FACTS

Human trafficking cases have been reported in every state in the U.S. It is a $150 billion industry and is considered the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world stealing innocence for profit.

The CDC states that in the United States, people with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victimized than people without them and children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be victimized as children without them.

While anyone can be victimized, people with disabilities are at greater risk of exploitation than people without disabilities, whether it is an intellectual and developmental disability, physical disability, or mental illness. Vulnerabilities to victimization include:

Ÿ Dependence on multiple caregivers meeting their basic needs

Ÿ Socialized to comply – “learned acquiescence”

Ÿ Limited education about sexuality and heathy relationships

Ÿ No understanding of right to bodily autonomy

Ÿ Frequent isolation from conventional social environment

Ÿ Limited social and/or communication skills, including failure of others to recognize behavior as communication

Ÿ Myths and misperceptions society in general have regarding people with disabilities

Ÿ 3x rate of sexual abuse

Ÿ High rate of co-occurrence of gender dysphoria and autism

Ÿ Children in the foster care system

Ÿ Disability, especially communication disorders and intellectual disability are over- represented in the runaway youth population

Ÿ Foster children with I/DD are more likely to have experienced adoption disruption or dissolution and are less like to be reunified with a parent, primary caretaker, or other family member

Exploitation and trafficking are rampant on social media platforms and gaming apps. Predators use these apps to recruit at-risk/vulnerable children and teens promising them acceptance and money. They then groom them into a trusting, yet fantasy relationship. Many predators ask for, and receive, compromising photos from their victims, and then use them as blackmail, telling the victims that the photos are everywhere and now they are damaged goods and cannot ever go back to their normal lives. These victims are so psychologically manipulated that they believe them and do everything they ask out of fear, trauma, guilt, and shame.

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