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IndyBar President’s Message: Lawyers Confront Human Trafficking

By Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence & 2013 IndyBar President

One of the great benefits of being an IndyBar member for me is the chance to be around other lawyers; and great lawyers at that. My professional world at the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence does not allow me the opportunity to be with other members of my profession, so I get my lawyer “fix” through the bar. I get to step out of the fast paced survivor centered work I love, and for lack of a better way of saying it, play in the sandbox. Dance with the Devil. See how the other half lives.

So imagine my surprise when I was donning my snazziest pair of pumps at the recent ABA Midyear Meeting, priming myself for some big time important lawyer networking, when the keynote speech was designed to — get this — get lawyers educated and engaged about the issue of human trafficking.

Oh lordy. They are preaching to the choir. Channeling my inner advocate, it was everything I could do to not yell “Testify!” in the middle of the presentation. Because this much I know from my day job: Human Trafficking is tied as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It generates roughly $32 billion per year for traffickers and victimizes 27 million men, women and children annually. And despite all of these staggering statistics, if this issue isn’t on your radar, it is incredibly easy to overlook.

That is why, in 2013 the American Bar Association is addressing this issue head on. A series of resolutions passed by the ABA’s House of Delegates at the February Midyear meeting encourages the creation of policies to protect victims. One of those resolutions urges bar associations to develop more training programs to help identify trafficking victims.

Let’s face it people, your IndyBar is a leader in the world of metro bar associations. We are 5,000 strong and others bars look to us for best practices and innovations in programming. The State of Indiana has stepped up its fight against human trafficking since Super Bowl 2012 with stronger and smarter laws and better victim outreach, support and assistance. It is this bar president’s opinion that we can help by educating and empowering our colleagues to recognize human trafficking when we see it, and then as importantly, to know what to do as a result.

So, knowledge is power.

Human trafficking comes in two forms: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Victims are most often women and children, although men are definitely victims as well. The average age of a victim entering the trafficking industry is 12-14 years old. The range of tactics used by the perpetrators of trafficking include physical and emotional violence; isolation; financial abuse; threats to persons, family and others; withholding of food, sleep, medical care; sexual abuse and exploitation; and using children to manipulate and control their victims. Trafficking is modern day slavery and it is found in many industries including:

The sex industry
Factories, restaurants, hotels
Health and beauty industries
Forced labor in agricultural or construction industries
Domestic servitude as servant, housekeeper, or nanny

Like intimate partner violence, it reaches every age, culture, race, ethnicity, income level and indeed, location. Be certain on this, human trafficking is happening in Indiana.

ABA President Laurel Bellows: “As a result of these resolutions, I am proud to say that it is the new policy of the ABA to fight human trafficking and protect victims by mobilizing lawyers, judges, bar associations and law enforcement.” Look for an IndyBar CLE on this issue, because knowledge of this issue, by IndyBar colleagues and constituents, matters

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