Interview With Truckers Against Trafficking
FindATruckingJob.com recently conducted and interview with Lyn Thompson, the founder of Truckers Against Trafficking, an organization dedicated to educating the trucking industry about human trafficking. Read our interview below, and feel free to leave comments.
How did Truckers Against Trafficking get started? What was the inspiration?
In 2007, six women (a mother, four daughters and a friend) started Chapter 61 Ministries, a 501c3 organization, based on Isaiah 61:1-4, to fight issues of injustice, with an emphasis on human trafficking. Two years later, we started Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) in 2009 as one of our initiatives, because it made sense to take the fight to the trucking industry for several reasons:
- Traffickers are continually moving their victims from place to place, for a variety of reasons, along our nation’s highways and roads. They “sell” their victims at truck stops, travel plazas and rest stops, because they’re convenient; transient populations frequent them who are less likely to“rescue” the victims; they have to use them anyway to buy gas and eat; and it’s easy money and a good way to break in their victims for other things.
- The FBI named truck stops and travel plazas as one of the places from which they rescued human trafficking victims in their numerous Innocence Lost campaigns.
- There are 8 million members of the trucking industry, of which 3 million are truck drivers and quite a number are travel plazas and truck stop employees. All of these people combined are the eyes and ears of our highways. They observe all people and behavior and can be places and see things the majority of the population can’t, because we’re not as mobile. They are a critical niche audience that can play a significant role in this fight.
- We reasoned that if these 8 million people knew that the girls, boys and women they often see “selling themselves” are really slave labor and victims of human trafficking, the majority of them would want to help set them free. We also reasoned that if we could educate them to recognize suspicious signs that someone might be a victim of human trafficking, they’d be able to then make the call to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center that would result in law enforcement getting involved and victims would be rescued and perpetrators convicted.
- Since the six of us were spread out in several states, it made more sense, and would be more effective, to work on a national level to engage the trucking industry than to try and work individually at a single gas station or truck stop in our individual cities to educate employees.
- In 2011, TAT had grown so large and was doing so much, it needed to become its own 501c3 organization. Since we were spending all our time on it anyway, we dissolved Chapter 61 and work exclusively now on TAT.
What are the main goals of the organization?
We exist to educate, equip, empower and mobilize the trucking industry to fight human trafficking, specifically domestic sex trafficking, as part of their regular jobs.
We do this by:
- Putting our wallet cards (and other materials) in the hands of members of the trucking industry;
- Having our trucking-industry-specific training DVD made part of orientation for all truck stop and travel plaza employees, all students of private and public truck-driving schools, all truck drivers employed via major carriers or owner/operators;
- Partnering with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking
What resources do you make available for drivers to educate them about human trafficking?
We provide all members of the trucking industry, including drivers:
- A website – www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com – full of information, tools and instruction on what they can do to help.
- An educational webinar on the website they can listen to or watch anytime, anywhere.
- A trucking-industry-specific training DVD in various lengths that we provide free of charge for training purposes – the longest version of this can be watched on the website.
- Wallet cards with signs to watch for, questions to ask and items to report if suspicious activity is noticed and the national hotline number to call with the information.
- Posters, brochures, truck window decals
- Training, speakers
How many people do you estimate your organization helps each year?
That’s hard to estimate, since each year we continue to grow, but in 2011, TAT distributed between 180,000-200,000 wallet cards, over 7000 DVDs, in addition to posters and vent-window decals. This year, the numbers are even greater, with state trucking associations like California, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota coming on board, (and others as well) along with the Iowa 80 truck stop group, and with the three trucking shows and numerous events and speaking engagements where we’ve handed out materials as well as filled individual requests for materials. And we’ve learned that our DVD is being used for training in 22 foreign countries as well.
If you could tell professional drivers one thing, what would it be?
Victims of human trafficking are everywhere. They could be the scared or downcast women or girls you see pulling up in a van or eating in a restaurant with some man, or the ones referred to as “lot lizards” that you see walking the lots, selling sex. They could be the little boys you see being taken in the shower by some man at a truck stop or the girls being offered by some pimp pulling up alongside your truck. If you see a minor working the lot or suspect pimp control, don’t hesitate; call the national hotline at 1-888-3737-888 and report what you know because you could be saving a life.