For the past four years, I have worked directly on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)* hotline, and in that time I’ve seen countless survivors call the hotline for assistance. I’ve seen our Hotline Advocates spring into action on each call, creating plans so that victims could leave their situation safely, get into emergency shelter, and receive the resources necessary for the long-term process of recovery.
The NHTRC connects people to critical, life-saving services. However, not everyone is aware of everything that the NHTRC does and how effective it is. Recently, there have been states that have come to me with plans to create their own statewide hotline. As a Regional Specialist at Polaris, it is my job to educate our partners around the country about how the NHTRC works and how it is an essential tool that helps local officials respond to trafficking in their cities and states.
Why is the NHTRC Such a Critical Tool?
The NHTRC connects survivors of all forms of human trafficking to nationwide services to get help and stay safe, and shares actionable tips and insights with the anti-trafficking community. From the labor trafficking victim in Texas to the law enforcement officer who is seeking services for a victim of sex trafficking, hotline staff are trained and ready to connect victims of all forms of trafficking to the services they need no matter where they are located.
We have strong relationships with 3,000 federal, state, and local service providers and law enforcement contacts, which enables us to immediately respond to people in crisis, field tips of suspected trafficking to the relevant authorities, and connect people to services and information. Callers can also access diverse forms of trafficking-specific assistance and resources 24 hours per day, confidentially, anywhere in the U.S., and in their native language. By offering a robust 24/7 infrastructure and sharing data and resources, we are uniting local efforts into a national movement that is restoring freedom to survivors and eradicating human trafficking at scale.
The NHTRC also houses one of the largest data sets on human trafficking in the U.S. In 2015, hotline advocates answered 22,000 calls, received reports of 5,500 cases of human trafficking, directly supported 1,600 survivors of human trafficking, and sent 1,400 tips to strengthen law enforcement investigations against trafficking. This data also allows us to share top-level trends with the entire country. This helps us all understand where and how human trafficking is happening, so we can stop traffickers from harming more people and help survivors find the services they need.
Making the Case in North Carolina
Earlier this year, North Carolina’s Human Trafficking Commission reached out to me as they worked to solidify key infrastructure to support victims across the state. They believed it was imperative to establish an official statewide hotline. So, I went to Raleigh to present to the Commission on the benefits of using a national hotline. I was prepared with a long list of reasons of why to use the NHTRC: local service provider contacts, transportation assistance for victims who need to return home to another state, law enforcement contacts locally and for cases that cross jurisdictions, trained 24-hour staff, and more — all at no cost to them.
Project NoREST, a federally-funded project collaborating with the Commission and planning to launch a statewide anti-trafficking awareness campaign in North Carolina beginning in 2017, had also been in touch with me. They invited me to speak about the NHTRC to their Response Mechanism Committee, which was the committee deciding which hotline to recommend to the Commission for statewide use.
After making the case for choosing the NHTRC, it was easy for Project NoREST to recommend it to the Commission:
“After weighing the options and speaking with Polaris specialists on several occasions, we concluded that using the national hotline will best advance our state’s response to human trafficking, meet the awareness goals of Project NoREST, and save vital federal and state funds for assisting victims in our state.” – Lindsey Roberson, Project NoREST
In the end, the Commission voted to make the NHTRC North Carolina’s official hotline for human trafficking, and Project NoREST will be disseminating the number statewide. The Commission’s decision to use the NHTRC instead of creating a new statewide hotline means that they can feed into an existing infrastructure and national network of anti-trafficking actors while concentrating their resources on strengthening local services for survivors and law enforcement efforts. As a result, many more survivors will be connected to the critical services they seek to rebuild their lives.
*The NHTRC is now the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.