SAN ANGELO, Texas – As promised, we continue our coverage of human trafficking as January is National Slavering and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“A lot of things can be misperceived, misconceptions, or taken the wrong way on social media,” Sgt. Justin Baker with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
“It can actually cause more harm to survivors who are trying to get resources,” Melissa Hernandez, Victim Services Advocates for Open Arms said.
These officials say, raising awareness about a topic is great but it’s very important to share facts not rumors. Locally in West Texas several posts have gone viral about a variety of topics, like zip ties being uses as some sort of sign or, a particular vehicle that is canvasing a parking lot. When it comes to posts like these there are ways you can get involved without putting yourself in danger or sharing them on social media.
“Before you share something, contact law enforcement, you’re not bothering them by asking them, hey I saw this online, did you get any reports about this? I wanted to make sure before I share it and spread information that it’s reliable information,” Hernandez said.
“And besides that, if that person was trafficking somebody and you put it on social media, well guess who else might have seen it? The one doing the trafficking and now they’re going to change, they’re going to leave immediately, so it’s not the best way to go about handling business on social media, call your local authorities,” Sgt. Baker said.
Officials say, the next time you see something online, make sure to check and re-check that it’s from a reliable source.
“For Human Trafficking awareness, specific sites to go to could be Polaris Project, they’re a really good one, they keep their stuff up to date, they are also partnered with the national trafficking hotline, and NCMEC,” Hernandez said.
Another way to get involved is by learning the difference between what the movies say human trafficking is, and what it is in real life.
“Be aware of your surroundings, yes be aware, but also know that the majority of trafficking victims are not being kidnapped. Actually here in the US, majority of victims are being trafficked and exploited by family members, by friends, people that are well known to them and they’ve been groomed by most likely,” Hernandez said.
There is also a coalition to fight human trafficking in our area. To get involved, contact Open Arms Rape Crisis Center & LGBT+ Services, located at 113 N. Harrison St. San Angelo, TX 76901. Or call them at (325) 655-2000.