According to survey responses from a diverse group of 401 Colorado residents, 98% of people expressed an awareness about human trafficking but not necessarily a recognition that it directly affects their community (pg. 13). The public generally acknowledges the existence of human trafficking and supports efforts to combat it. However, a major task of the anti-human trafficking movement is to connect the public to the realities of human trafficking in their own communities. The Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC) functions as a key agent for social change in both the political sphere and among local communities throughout Colorado.
The CHTC recently published its 2018 annual report. CHTC members create these annual reports for the Judiciary Committees in order to summarize notable projects, activities, and findings of the Council from the previous year and as a space to share recommendations. For 2018, the Council focused its energy, time, and resources on these five areas:
- Public Awareness
- Labor Trafficking
- Identifying Best Practices for the Prevention of Human Trafficking
- Data Collection
- Training Development
Promoting Prevention Strategies and Public Awareness
The CHTC 2018 Annual Report highly emphasized primary prevention. Primary prevention aims to prevent “violence from occurring to those who have not previously experienced it” (pg. 75). This model is adopted from a public health approach. There is also an emphasis on addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors among groups at heightened risk for human trafficking as well as the general public. The effects of this approach will extend beyond human trafficking prevention and enhance prevention against other forms of exploitation as well (pg. 78).
The Council also developed a five-year public awareness campaign plan to educate the public on human trafficking in Colorado and to equip community members to effectively engage in the anti-trafficking movement. Council staff is pursuing funding to support its implementation in 2019.
Human Trafficking Training Outcomes
Solid training programs contribute to the goals of the campaign plan and align with the Council’s priorities for 2018. “From January through October 31, 2018, DCJ staff and trained facilitators completed 92 trainings requested by 68 organizations for a total of 2,224 trained individuals around Colorado. This was an increase in individuals reached of almost 20% from 2017” (pg. 4). Implementation of CHTC training curricula, An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Colorado and Human Trafficking Investigations: An Introductory Course, are specifically designed for facilitators. The intention is “to establish a common understanding and use of language within Colorado’s human trafficking efforts” (pg. 53). Core values that are present in trainings include being trauma responsive, community based, and focused on survivor needs and survivor inclusion.
Addressing Labor Trafficking in Colorado
Labor trafficking emerged as a priority for the Council alongside training development. The Council broadly identified those who are at a heightened risk for labor trafficking including youth, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers (pg. 59). Labor trafficking is often neglected in the human trafficking conversation. There can be a lack of empathy for those who are labor trafficked due to unawareness, not recognizing it as a serious violation of human rights, or racial bias (pg. 62). In light of this, the 2018 Annual Report includes 11 recommendations from the Council in order to prioritize and promote anti-labor trafficking efforts. These recommendations fall under the categories of Protections, Legal Tools, and Training and Awareness.
Another noteworthy trend that has been observed over the last five years is that “law enforcement reported more cases of sex trafficking, while service providers reported more cases of labor trafficking. In fact, for 2017, law enforcement reported no labor trafficking investigations or arrests” (pg. 35). This discrepancy led the Council to identify the unique role of service providers in the midst of labor trafficking. Statistics from this report suggest that survivors of labor trafficking are less likely to reach out to law enforcement for support or resources.
Data Collection and Child Welfare
The report additionally highlights how Colorado legally requires the child welfare system to collect and report human trafficking data as of 2017. This new information was provided to the Data & Research Task Force to include in their research and recommendations regarding human trafficking realities in Colorado. It’s notable that LCHT’s Training and Education Program has prioritized child welfare trainings for the last three years. Equipping professionals in this important sector will continue to be a priority in 2019.
Obtaining accurate human trafficking data allows the Council to effectively make recommendations to the legislature. It provides reliable data for those working in the anti-trafficking field and educates Colorado citizens to better understand what human trafficking in their state looks like.
Notable Growth for Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline
Call data from Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline (CoNEHT) was also noted in this year’s report. The Hotline and Resource Directory, a program managed by LCHT, served over 600 callers in 2018. Both survivors (one third of callers) and witnesses of trafficking utilize the hotline. The fact that more survivors access the hotline each year demonstrates the growing strength of this statewide resource network. Efforts to increase survivor awareness of trafficking and strengthen survivor confidence that they will be received well continue to be a priority of the Council and of LCHT.
As the Colorado Human Trafficking Council continues into its fifth year, we encourage our networks and partners to follow the work of this important coalition. The Council is strengthened by the many voices of our state – both supportive and critical – so that deliberated recommendations can better inform Colorado’s human trafficking response.