There is one group of Americans who are perhaps more powerful than any other to stop children from being sold into prostitution. I'm not talking about parents, teachers, or even police officers. I'm talking about truck drivers. America's truckers are, in many ways, the first line of defense against child prostitution and child trafficking. And there are more and more groups and resources empowering truckers to use their unique power to save kids' lives.
There are a number of reasons why truckers are in a special position of power to fight human trafficking. First, a lot of child trafficking goes on at truck stops. Among some truckers, the girls and women sold at truck stops are called "lot lizards," a derogatory term indicating that the girls are pests. There have been several cases where truck stops were one of the primary locations traffickers sold teen girls. Truck drivers are in an ideal position to observe the prostitution and trafficking that takes place at truck stops and report the presence of minors and adult women who look frightened or like they aren't in control of the situation.
Another reason truckers are important in the fight against child sex trafficking is that pimps and traffickers use the interstate system to move children from place to place more often than other forms of transportation. As frequent travelers, truckers have the opportunity to observe and report suspicious behavior. Also, the vast majority of truckers are men. Many truckers understand how macho, male-dominated culture that can sometimes support the exploitation of girls and women exists within the industry.
In an effort to help truckers who want to end trafficking within the industry better identify and report human trafficking, the NGO Truckers Against Trafficking is putting on three freeeducational webinarsfor truck drivers, truck stop workers, and other people who are involved with the trucking industry. The goal of these programs is to educate people in the trucking industry about human trafficking and how to identify it, in the hopes that more truckers will report trafficking taking place at truck stops. The webinars will take place on April 14, 21, and 29 at 9:00 pm EST. For more information or to find out how to listen to one of these free educational programs, visit Truckers Against Trafficking'swebsite.
Education is important, but to truly address the rampant sale of trafficking victims at American truck stops, some aspects of trucker culture will need to change as well. For example, as long as truck drivers, even those who don't use commercial sex, refer to the young girls sold at truck stops as "lot lizards," those girls will be seen as objects. Truckers and truck stop workers need to understand that many of those girls are victims of child sex trafficking, that coming to that truck stop was not their choice, and that they deserve respect and assistance -- not mockery. Fortunately, there are groups like Truckers Against Trafficking who are comprised of truck drivers and others leading the way in this change of culture.
For a close-up look at child trafficking at one truck stop just outside of Portland, check out the video below.
Amanda Kloerhas been a full-time abolitionist for six years. She currently develops trainings and educational materials for civil attorneys representing victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.