Training session

Kara Napolitano, research and training manager for the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, conducts a training session on trafficking at St. Vincent Hospital.

Many people envision human trafficking as a bunch of guys in a car grabbing a girl off the street and forcing her into prostitution.

Although sex trafficking can happen in this manner, it’s far more likely that the person being trafficked has been recruited by a family member or has consented to taking part.

In fact trafficking is not always for sexual purposes. It might involve forcing people into various kinds of work that don’t involve sex.

The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT) defines human trafficking as a severe form of exploitation of another person involving force, fraud or coercion for labor or commercial purposes.

Kara Napolitano, research and training manager for LCHT, conducted a training session at St. Vincent Hospital for healthcare providers and others on Nov. 16. The purpose was to enable the staff to better identify potential victims of trafficking. Many of those attending were mandatory reporters, meaning they are required to report suspected incidents of trafficking to the authority. (This also applies to cases of child abuse and other situations where someone is victimized.)

Trafficking victims are “not just limited to those who are foreign born, youth or females,” Napolitano said.

In sex trafficking, the breakdown is 80% female and 20% male. In labor trafficking, it’s more 50-50, she said.

Trafficking victims fall into three categories:

•Anyone under the age of 18 who is forced to perform a sex act. By law, those under 18 are unable to consent to such an act.

• Anyone 18 or over who is forced or coerced to commit a sex act.

• Someone forced into involuntary servitude. The occupations where this is most likely to happen are domestic service, construction and agriculture.

Homeless young people are particularly vulnerable to both kinds of trafficking, Napolitano said. So are undocumented individuals who can sometimes be held in bondage simply by a threat to report them to immigration.

Some examples of trafficking in nearby counties include a case where two men were convicted for convincing two 14-year-olds to run away to Las Vegas. When they got there, the two juveniles were pimped out from an Airbnb.

In a Frisco case, a man pimped out both his wife and his daughter.

In another case an undocumented girl was forced to work in a home without pay for two years. She could have walked out at any time. She did eventually get detained by the authorities, but told them she was better off there than in her own country, Napolitano told the group.

On a statewide basis, cases filed between 2016 and 2018 using the 2014 human trafficking statutes include: involuntary servitude – 8; sexual servitude, adult – 38; sexual servitude, minor – 135.

Of the cases filed, 82% were in the Denver metro area and 18% were filed elsewhere.

Napolitano said that when someone is in a trafficking situation, there are both physical and psychological effects. The brain becomes unable to make rational decisions. Instead of flight or flight, they tend to freeze.

In 2014, strong legislation was written in Colorado to help combat trafficking. Also, there is no statute of limitations on sex crimes.

Colorado has a Human Trafficking Hotline where help is available or tips can be left. Call 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724.

Napolitano didn’t mention any Lake County cases in her talk. When asked if she know of trafficking cases here, she said she’d heard of two sex trafficking cases, but didn’t know if either was prosecuted.

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