ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
It might surprise you to know that many of our homegrown kids are working in the local sex trade. NEWS10 ABC’s Anya Tucker met some of the people working to save them.
“I think trafficking is a confusing thing for some people that conjures up an image of a van full of people,” John Kelly said. They confuse trafficking with smuggling, so that’s been a challenge for us from day one.”
Kelly is the coordinator for Safe Harbour in Saratoga County. He helps identify and assist young people who are being trafficked or sexually exploited.
Kelly: “We are seeing this as certainly our home grown kids. These are the kids that are born and raised in this area.”
Anya: “So who are the traffickers then?”
Kelly: “Traffickers can be someone that they know. Someone that they trust.”
Or, just someone who can spot and prey on a vulnerable kid.
“‘You’re having sex anyway, why don’t you get paid for it?’ He presented it like empowerment,” Jasmine Marino recalled.
At 18, Marino was lured into what’s known as “The Life” by her then-boyfriend.
Anya: “You were in love with your trafficker.”
Anya spoke with Marino last year as part of NEWS10’s coverage of the local sex trade. Marino is now an author and public speaker, who encourages survivors to seek and accept help.
“A lot of victims we work with said if someone had asked me I might have said something.”
Kelly says part of Safe Harbour’s focus is to educate first responders to engage in conversations with young women or men, who they suspect might be working in the sex trade such as asking them if they feel safe, or if they are doing things against their will.
Kelly’s organization helps connect survivors with services withheld to them by their pimps, including healthcare and getting a driver’s license.
“Things like that, just basic stuff that you and I would consider, just walk into an office and get.”
A small army of outreach is also helping to identify victims. Keegan Burke is part of that network. He is the Director of the Salvation Army’s newly formed Anti-Trafficking Program in Saratoga Springs.
“Connect them to housing, shelter, trauma counseling, medical services — whatever the youth needs to heal and exit from their situation we will be able to provide that service,” Burke said.
Kelly says it’s rewarding for everybody.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s someone’s daughter; it’s someone’s sister.”
Click HERE to find local programs.
The National Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888