It’s estimated that just over 40 million people are victims of human trafficking. That’s a huge number—more people are enslaved today than have ever been at any other time in history.
Truckers are in a unique position to identify and stop trafficking. Last year, we interviewed Laura Cyrus, Director of Corporate Engagement at Truckers Against Trafficking, to learn more about how truckers can protect these most vulnerable people. In a recent episode of Diesel Stories, Laura came back to talk more about Truckers Against Trafficking, their mission, and why human trafficking doesn’t always look the way we think.
Laura grew up and completed her undergrad in Michigan, and while there she experienced something that forever changed her: she was stalked. It ended up shifting the way she looked at the world, and she ultimately changed her major to criminal justice. “I wanted to focus on how I can help women,” she says, “and how I can help survivors of a crime.”
Truth be told, Laura didn’t think much about human trafficking until she saw a missionary speaking about her experience overseas. From there, it was as if a light bulb flicked on; she had recently purchased two dresses at Macy’s—which she hoped to wear on interviews to her dream job—and after speaking to that missionary, it occurred to her that she had no idea who had made those dresses.
The thought took root.
“I’m a person of faith and I just felt called that night to do something as it related to human trafficking,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what that really looked like at the time, but I just knew I was going to dedicate my life to this cause.”
She didn’t wind up with those dream jobs (graduating into a recession has that unfortunate effect) and instead spent several years in different roles. She then found a graduate program that called to her: a Master’s in International Human Rights with a concentration in forced labor and human trafficking. While in school, she interned with Truckers Against Trafficking. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The podcast touched on several topics, including:
- How and why trafficking—both sex and labor-based—remains hugely profitable.
- The fact that most victims know their trafficker somehow. They’re usually a family relation, or someone they met in their community. Yes, people are taken by force, but compulsion and manipulation of vulnerable people is often how it happens.
- How open, honest conversations about the demand for sex trafficking can help spur a greater change.
- Legislation coming down the pipeline (mostly state-based) that punishes traffickers—and how legalization or at least decriminalization of prostitution might not have as much of an impact.
- Some of the signs truckers, business travelers, and others can look for that indicate trafficking (among them: several young women emerging from one vehicle and knocking on rig doors).
While human trafficking is a hard subject, learning about it will help us put a stop to it. Listen to the entire podcast here, and make a donation to Truckers Against Trafficking to help them continue with their work!