As part of a national initiative by The Salvation Army, a local task force was created to raise awareness and respond to issues of human trafficking. The Committee for Hartford Area Against Trafficking (CHAAT) launched last year as a way for Hartford’s community to tackle the issue of human trafficking. CHAAT convened interested parties to create and implement outreach and awareness efforts of this troubling and often misunderstood injustice.
Each month, representatives from twenty four groups meet, including law enforcement, faith-based organizations, sexual assault/domestic violence agencies, members of the general public, etc., to name a few. Human trafficking is a growing crisis in Connecticut and Rhode Island, in part because of its popular route for traffickers along Interstate 95, with convenient stops to buy and sell victims. “It’s happening in our schools, neighborhoods and communities and is certainly much worse than people think,” said Krystal Ambrozaitis, Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Southern New England Division. “When we talk about trafficking, people still have this idea that it’s an overseas problem that’s not happening here.”
Rhode Island has a large market for Asian massage parlors; in Connecticut hotels are a valuable resource for trafficking, as many offer hourly rentals. These factors contribute to our states’ vulnerability for human trafficking.
Identifying instances of human trafficking can be difficult. Victims may appear withdrawn or unaware of their surroundings; they may have multiple cell phones, hotel room keys, expensive clothes/jewelry, or other items with no explanation as to how they were paid for. Victims are often forced to work with little or no pay, inadequate sleep and often spend much of their time with a “controlling employer.”
In September, CHAAT organized one of the largest human trafficking film screenings in the state. The movie SOLD tells the story of a young girl who risks everything for freedom after being trafficked from her mountain village in Nepal to a brothel in India. The film, screened at Rave Cinemas in Manchester, attracted nearly 200 viewers. Several group homes and high schools brought their youth as a way to begin conversations surrounding the dangers of human trafficking.
The Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking program has recently launched a case management program in Greater Hartford. The program will be available to any domestic, adult survivors of human trafficking, and will connect them with resources in the community including housing, substance abuse treatment, medical/dental services, etc. Additional locations will be opening in the future throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Human trafficking affects everyone, and it can be prevented by everyone. You can help by volunteering or participating in program activities or making a monetary gift to ensure victims are getting the support they need. If you are a parent, educator, pastor, etc., advocate for anti-trafficking seminars in our schools and churches. Most importantly, whether in a restaurant, a hotel, at a nail salon, etc., if you see something, say something!