PA PSYCHOLOGISTS AND PARTNERS CONDEMN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Monday, May 15, 2017
Posted by: Justin Fleming
PA PSYCHOLOGISTS AND PARTNERS CONDEMN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
By Aaron Rider, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | May 8, 2017
Several members of state government and civil society today joined with the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA) in the Main Capitol Rotunda today to condemn human trafficking and describe measures to eradicate it.
Krista Bower, executive director of the PPA, referred to human trafficking as a “modern day slave trade” that produces over 5 million child victims alone worldwide and produces over $150 million in illegal activities. People are aware of its evil and its size and scope, but “we can and must do more,” she said.
David Rogers, president of the PPA Board of Directors, said human trafficking is “horrible,” “heinous,” and “simply put, beyond horrific.” With some tears in his eyes, Rogers said that those who do not understand it are very fortunate to never know the circumstances its victims suffer. Explaining PPA’s role, he said that psychologists are, first of all, filling a gap for Mandarin-speakers who are frequently victims who cannot communicate with the authorities. As such, he shared that PPA worked together with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to develop a card that enables officers to ask simple and important questions in Mandarin so potential victims can answer “yes” or “no.” Similarly, he said that PPA has begun distributing multi-lingual flyers to publicize the National Human Trafficking Hotline. PPA is also partnering with the Pennsylvania and Lodging Association, said Rogers, to train lodging staff how to identify potential signs of human trafficking. Lastly, he said that PPA is building a network of psychologists along the US Route 15 corridor to serve victims. All of this is being done, he said, because Pennsylvanians are obliged to play a role in fulfilling William Penn’s vision of making the commonwealth one that is “caring.”
Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) shared how he has long supported a reform of the statute of limitations for child abuse and said he wants the same sort of reform for human trafficking. Victims of it are, he stated, forced into an “evil world” of prostitution, forced labor, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental and physical anguish through which they come to rely upon the very people who are torturing them. “We need to provide a safe harbor,” said Rep. Rozzi, and this is why he said he introduced HB 525. “We must stop treating these children…as criminals,” he declared. He also referred to SB 554 by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) as being legislation he will support but amend when it comes before the House. Moving on, Rep. Rozzi said that 151 cases of human trafficking were reported last year in Pennsylvania, but he was adamant that this represents significant underreporting. He concluded by saying it is time for Pennsylvania to fully and aggressively prosecute the criminals and stop the “suffering of children.”
Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester) mentioned that there was previously no legal definition of “slavery” as a criminal offense in Pennsylvania and that he and other legislators worked to define it and stipulate punishments for it. He announced that Chester County had been a proud Mason-Dixon Line center of abolition during the Civil War period and that its people – especially its county-based association against human trafficking – are committed to “the new abolitionist movement” to stop human trafficking.
Kurt Myers, deputy secretary of driver & vehicle services with PennDOT, said people may be surprised to find that the agency has a “role to play” in this field of issues. Its response is “across the board,” he said. To start, Myers clarified that drivers’ license center employees are being trained to observe signs of human trafficking and trained to report them to proper authorities. He stated that 500 field employees and 37 transit center leaders have received significant training in the area. Myers also said that Pennsylvania’s trucker residents, who number over 400,000, are being contacted by PennDOT to follow the lead of one trucker who, he shared, “saved the life” of one woman who was being held in bondage as a sex slave.
Rhonda Hendrickson, vice president of programs with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, said that nobody wakes up and “wants to be a prostitute” or wants to be a slave in a warehouse. This, she stated, is why the YWCA gets many calls from people who need help escaping. Route 15 is, she said, a tremendous transportation network that connects nearly every highway and byway in the state, making the Harrisburg area a nexus point of human trafficking. Police, therefore, she said, perform many prostitution stings in the area, capturing pimps as well as prostitutes. Hendrickson stated that there is a problem with this; the prostitutes who are arrested are truly victims, in her eyes, and measures are needed to correct this. Human trafficking, she said, “doesn’t look like the movie, ‘Taken,’ people.”
Lt. Harold Rinker of the PSP said that human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal business and will probably soon surpass firearms and narcotics trafficking as the world’s largest criminal business. He described a 2014 case where his officers, collaborating with Maryland police, captured a significant figure in human trafficking, as being one example of the PSP’s efforts. With that in mind, Rinker added, the PSP is equally prepared to help victims. “We are only one phone call away,” he said, pleading that victims contact police.