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Posters Target Human Trafficking Victims

Sara Lerner

People who are stuck in forced labor in Washington state might be one step closer to freedom today. Businesses and public spaces will now be flyered with posters directed at human trafficking victims.


The group Seattle Against Slavery has been working on these posters with law enforcement and service providers as well as State Senator Jeanne Kohl–Welles. In the last session she sponsored a bill to put them up at rest stops. It passed unanimously. Attorney General Rob McKenna says people who are caught in modern–day slavery are in a terrible situation.

McKenna: "The poster campaign is the first effort we ever made in our region, and it might be the first in the country that doesn't just try to educate social service workers and law enforcement officers about human trafficking victims, but actually reaches out to human trafficking victims to encourage them to come forward."

McKenna explains people who are being exploited like this don't know how to get help. And that's why it's so hard to find them. Robert Beiser is public awareness director for Seattle Against Slavery.

Beiser: "The people don't even know that they have the right to not be experiencing that because maybe in their country they have the experience of being forced to work without being paid for long hours under threat of violence, and that's just commonplace because the government isn't intervening."

Beiser says traffickers might threaten the victim, saying if you go to authorities, they'll throw you in jail. The poster says, "You have rights in the US, regardless of immigration status. If you're being forced to work, please call for help." It's in seven languages. Beiser says victims have been found in all kinds of places: from Seattle's suburbs to urban neighborhoods with many refugee communities.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

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