Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

By Vanessa Lauren

Human trafficking is a crime. SEEDS of Hope organization, run by The Salvation Army, held an event at College of Southern Nevada to bring light to this pressing issue in our community.

U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking as, “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”

Nevada ranked seventh in the 2018 National Human Trafficking Hotline report. That makes Las Vegas one of the top cities in the country where human trafficking happens. The numbers in this report are based on information received by phone calls, emails, texts and online tips. These numbers show there is a problem in the City and upping awareness is necessary.

According to Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery, human tracking is a multi-billion dollar industry affecting 25 million people around the world. In 2017, Polaris worked on nearly 9,000 cases of human trafficking. These cases involved individual victims; potential traffickers and trafficking businesses. “Human trafficking is notoriously underreported,” as stated on the Polaris website. “Shocking as these numbers are they are likely only a tiny fraction of the actual problem.”

SEEDS of Hope held a special event at CSN on Feb. 13 that brought awareness to students to inform them of the issues, statistics and how to help. The organization’s goal, as stated on its website, is to stop human trafficking in the Valley by working with local law enforcement, the FBI and ICE to find victims who need help.

Brittany Hopballe, the SOH program director and speaker at the event, said, “SOH provides intensive-case management to people who have been exploited and abused through sex or labor trafficking. We provide 24-hour response to victims in need, engage in safety planning and resources while victims are still in exploitive situations seeking a plan to escape. During that time we assist with court advocacy, linking with attorneys for immigration, civil issues, family law, etcetera, along with linking and supporting medical needs, mental health and trauma recovery.”

“We work with nearly 100 partners each year to be sure victims have access to resources needed to be successful,” Hopballe said.

Educating the public is a first step to put an end to human trafficking.

CSN history Professor Sondra Cosgrove said, “Cities with an economic base that includes tourism are more likely to have a problem with human trafficking. We also have traffickers who fly trafficking victims in to Las Vegas for large events such as sporting events and conventions and then they fly out after the event ends. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to track these victims because they appear to be tourists and are not in town long enough to track.”

“It will take time to educate the public and put traffickers and their customers on notice that they will be caught and punished,” Cosgrove said.

“As a community we should also all care if vulnerable men and women are being victimized by violence and exploitation,” Cosgrove said. “Today those victims may be strangers but this type of crime can quickly pull in daughters, sons and friends.”

“I hope that students become more aware of the exploitation of human beings and want to help others,” said CSN Counseling and Psychological Services Program Officer Jimesian Sanders. Her team worked together with SOH to set up the event on campus.

“I learned how Las Vegas is the hub of human trafficking,” said CSN political science major Mia Taguchi, who attended the event. “The information wasn’t surprising knowing the culture of Las Vegas but it really opened my eyes to see how prevalent the issues of human trafficking are and how little is being done about it.”

Those in need of help may contact National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or SOH at (702) 649-8240 ext. 230. Find additional information on the website

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