Around 7,621 cases of reported human trafficking were fielded by The National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 alone, including the young daughter of a couple identifies as Maureen and David. The girl had vanished with a friend of hers that January, Maureen and David contacted Saved in America (or SIAM) three weeks later, SIAM is a volunteer group of U.S. Navy Seals, police detectives, and other specialists. Within a week or so, they were able to locate and rescue the 16-year-old young daughter from the sex trafficking ring into which she had been sold. SIAM is a group determined to end human trafficking.
“People don’t realize that it’s going on in their own backyards.”
In fact, thanks to this San Diego-based group’s expertise in investigation, surveillance, and police collaboration, it has assisted in 57 successful child recoveries over 36 months, according to the SIAM website. And the group also connects the rescued juveniles with treatment and rehabilitation options.
Amid the human trafficking problem, SIAM fills an important role. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that about 20 percent of runaways reported are sex trafficking young victims, according to its website, but “law enforcement is responsible for so much of that, they are constantly over-extended and are not legally required to perform due diligence to locate or find a ‘runaway’ child.”
And law enforcement officials are grateful for the help, judging by the testimonials on the SIAM website. “It is partnerships like this one that plays a significant role in law enforcement today, not only from a public safety perspective but also as an opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of those who have been victimized before,” A sheriff from Duval County, Fla., Mike Williams, wrote to the team.
San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan told VICE News of private groups like Saved in America the following, “They can be a very helpful team because victims tend to not trust the police sometimes. You know, a private investigator doesn’t have the police’s power and athority, and so as long as they abide by their ethical duties and stay in their own lane and operating and providing useful information to the police, then we welcome them.”
Joseph Travers, a chaplain and private investigator, founded SIAM after hearing about the 2009 abduction and death of Brittanee Drexel. “I knew that prison gangs, street gangs, and cartels took over the drug trafficking business in the 1980s, and then they took over the sex trafficking at the end of the century,” he told the magazine. “When I read about the girl who disappeared off the face of the planet, I just knew gangs were involved in Brittanee Drexel’s case.”
Since founding SIAM, Travers has met with many parents just like Maureen and David, ones who are frustrated by the pace of law enforcement’s investigations. “Most of the parents are in a panic stage, and they’re waiting for something to happen,” Travers told VICE News. “So now the family is at a standstill. They have to go find their child on their own, and most people don’t know how to do that, so we fill that gap.”
His son, Joshua Travers, is a former U.S. Marine who now serves as SIAM’s Chief of Case Management. “People don’t realize this is going on in their own backyards. This is not in some far away country with some very poor people,” the younger Travers said to PEOPLE. “This could be your child, your next-door neighbor’s child, anyone’s child. A lot of these kids are from a middle-class family in the United States. They are not super poor or really involved in abuse or bad situations [at home].”
His father told VICE that they’re there for the parent as a resource, he thinks that the greatest thing that could happen is if Saved in America didn’t have to exist.”
End Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery
RESOLUTIONS IN 2021 made End Human Trafficking a national priority for all Americans. This law is part of a campaign against modern-day slavery that seeks to eradicate the demand for commercial sex acts in the United States and around the world. According to the U.S. State Department, at least 23 million people are subjected to forced labor and commercial sex acts each year. This trafficking crime is not only brutal, it is also largely unreported.
The first resolutions in 2021 recognized the plight of trafficked victims and called for greater attention to ending this modern-day form of slavery. Countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on trafficking and are party to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Minimum Standards of Treatment provide services to trafficking victims including assistance with immigration and employment issues, protection and care, and victim assistance and protection. For example, Nepal has been an advocate for trafficking victims for over 15 years. Nepal has made great strides in protecting its trafficking victims. In 2021, Nepal adopted the “RIGHT TO WORK” policy that encourages employers to hire local workers and give reasonable notice before terminating their workers. The policy also requires that employers provide evidence of employment verification and provides funds to local intermediaries who help victims find jobs and assistance with immigration and residency issues.
Each year, thousands of victims are rescued from conditions that would have doomed them in life in poverty. By working closely with the Nepalese government and other international partners, we can support these victims and help them get instant access to quality health care and safe shelter. The United States is a strong partner in the global fight against modern-day slavery and we are committed to helping those in need through our various programs, one of which is the US ambassador-at-large for anti-human trafficking efforts. The US ambassador is a valuable resource to the government of Nepal in its efforts to end human trafficking and bring its victims to safety.
The role of the United States as a partner in ending the practice of human trafficking is most important in remote and hard-to-reach areas. As a result, it is crucial that the victims of human trafficking be able to get immediate access to medical care, safe shelter and legal assistance. A large number of victims do not know how to raise awareness about their rights and remain unaware of the resources available to them. The United States is dedicated to working with partner nations to strengthen security in border regions and to promoting development in underdeveloped countries so that they have the ability to secure their environments and promote economic development.
Working closely with Nepal, the United States is helping to strengthen its economy by providing direct financial and material resources to the country. Through the Nepal Human Trafficking Training Program, we are also assisting Nepalese officials to strengthen their anti-trafficking efforts and improve the identification and apprehension of trafficking victims. We recognize that not only does this improve the health and safety of the victims, it can also prevent potential trafficking by preventing the escape of victims and criminals. To strengthen our partner nations, the United States is providing over $1.25 million to support the Nepalese government’s anti-human trafficking efforts.
Ensuring that our personnel abroad are well-trained and equipped is an important role in ending human trafficking. It is important for law enforcement agencies, including law enforcement agencies in the State Department as well as local law enforcement agencies in the United States to work closely with our partners on a voluntary basis. In addition to regularly training these personnel in the areas of victim identification and victim recovery, these agencies should also develop protocols for responding to potential emergencies. For example, when and where to seek medical treatment, what to do if there are victims injured or missing, and other such issues. Such protocols should also include procedures for identifying and locating potential victims who may still be in the process of being trafficked.
By working closely with our foreign partners, we can further our efforts to end human trafficking and sex trafficking by highlighting the issues of these crimes. The Trafficking in Persons Act is a good example of this. This legislation has been created as part of our bilateral agreement with our foreign partners. To raise awareness on these issues, the United States is hosting a multi-stakeholder forum on combating human trafficking, which includes foreign countries, advocacy groups, law enforcement and civil society organizations, as well as affected families and trafficking survivors. The forum is a great place to begin to address the issues and to build a consensus for policy change.
A successful trafficking strategy will not be possible without the collaboration of all partners. Working closely with our partners, the United States can not only help to end human trafficking and sex trafficking on an international level, but also improve the safety and security for all those that have been subjected to this crime. By ensuring that our various anti-human trafficking programs are well-implemented and that our foreign partners are fully aware of their responsibilities in combating this horrible crime, the United States can strengthen its hand in dealing with this horrible problem once and for all.
Another most watched human trafficking video here.