Human Trafficking: Look Beneath the Surface
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Human Trafficking: Look Beneath the Surface

An 11-year-old girl is recruited to work as a waitress at a restaurant in the United States so she could help her desperately poor family in Mexico. The promised job never materializes. Instead, she finds herself imprisoned in a trailer serving as a portable brothel.

Paul Holmes

An 11-year-old girl is recruited to work as a waitress at a restaurant in the United States so she could help her desperately poor family in Mexico. The promised job never materializes. Instead, she finds herself imprisoned in a trailer serving as a portable brothel. This is human trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery. The trafficking of children, women and men from developing countries to the United States for sexual exploitation and forced labor is a devastating human rights violation prevalent in the United States.

The U.S. State Department estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Traffickers beat, emotionally torture and blackmail victims to entrap them into prostitution, pornography, migrant farm labor, domestic servitude, sweatshop work and other types of forced labor.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the agency responsible for helping victims of human trafficking become eligible to receive benefits and services. In October 2003, HHS charged Ketchum with developing a public awareness campaign to help increase the number of victims identified in the United States. When Ketchum teamed with the HHS, the result was a partnership that would shine the media spotlight on this abuse, rescue new victims of trafficking and build a community of support to help restore their lives.

Ketchum conducted an extensive literature review and held interviews with experts in the fields of health care, social service and law enforcement to outline the scope of the problem, identify statistics on the issue, understand the circumstances under which victims are exploited, and detail the benefits and services available to victims. A Ketchum media analysis found that coverage on trafficking was focused on international and prosecutorial side of the situation, and not domestic and victim-focused. Interviews with numerous former victims of human trafficking revealed that direct outreach would be difficult because victims have limited access to the outside world.

Based on this research, Ketchum designed a campaign that would bring media attention to the plight of U.S. trafficking victims and reach out to intermediaries who may encounter victims, but may not realize it. The objectives were: Increase the number of trafficking victims identified; bring media attention to the problem of trafficking in the United States and focus that attention on the victims of trafficking. Specifically, conduct press activities in 10 target markets; raise awareness among those intermediaries who can identify trafficking victims.

Ketchum¡¯s strategy was to build a consistent, compelling campaign identity to attract attention to the problem of human trafficking; work through target market and national media to educate intermediaries and the public about the scope of the U.S. human trafficking problem and the services available to help victims; form national and local partnerships to help reach intermediaries and extend the reach of the campaign.

The team created a campaign identity ¨C Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking ¨C to reflect the victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking. The campaign theme ¨C ¡°Look Beneath the Surface¡± ¨C drives home the message that intermediaries need to ¡°look beneath the surface¡± of the people they interact with each day to recognize potential trafficking victims.

In addition, the team developed key messages and talking points for HHS officials and third-party spokespeople, which were often tailored for local market media outreach and press conference remarks and created informational materials to help media and intermediaries gain an understanding of the issue as a domestic problem. Materials included a series of fact sheets, brochures, posters, and toolkits for use in training on the issue of human trafficking.

The campaign also launched the first, 24/7, multi-language Human Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline (1.888.3737.888) to assist trafficking victims and identify local organizations available to assist in the community; developed Rolodex cards and phone stickers to promote the hotline with intermediaries; assisted HHS in creating a website that serves as a centralized source on all materials and resources related to the issue of trafficking ¨C (www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking).

On the media relations front, Ketchum:
¡Æ Launched the campaign in 10 target markets ¨C Phoenix, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa, Newark, San Francisco and Milwaukee.
¡Æ Pitched the story to national media outlets.
¡Æ Developed and distributed HHS/United Nations¡¯ public service announcements on human trafficking.

Working with sub-contractor Capital City Partners, formulated coalition partnerships with intermediaries in target markets and reached out to high-profile national organizations to aide in the campaign. These groups play an integral part in the campaign by disseminating materials to their local contacts and raising awareness through trainings and speaking events.

Since the launch of the campaign in April, the hotline has received more than 1,300 calls from intermediaries, possible victims and the public, and more than 20 percent of these calls have resulted in referrals to local HHS grantees that provide services to trafficking victims

As a result of outreach efforts, cases involving potential victims have surfaced in every target market and numerous investigations of trafficking are underway. And as a result of a speaking engagement at the Migrant Farm Worker Conference in Florida, HHS was alerted to what appears to be one of the nation¡¯s largest trafficking cases ever discovered in the United States.

The campaign shifted the focus of coverage from solely an international problem to a domestic problem, with a dramatic increase in coverage focusing on assistance for victims. It garnered more than 68.7 million media impressions in such outlets as AP, ABC¡¯s Nightline, Philadelphia Inquirer, Arizona Republic, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Tampa Tribune, Newsday, Seattle-Post Intelligencer and Newark Star Ledger, as well as local broadcast network affiliate coverage in every market.

The effort established coalitions with more than 300 local intermediary organizations that implement the campaign on the local level, serving and assisting victims in key U.S. markets. It also secured a national partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, who vowed to add human trafficking to its platform on key child exploitation issues and agreed to co-sponsor the Rescue & Restore child trafficking materials.

 As part of this collaboration, HHS unveiled its new child exploitation materials at the Dallas Crimes Against Children Conference in a joint panel on trafficking to an audience of law enforcement officers and social service providers. In total, more than 35 national partners have agreed to collaborate on the campaign and educate members, colleagues and the public about the issue, including the National Consumers League and the Ricky Martin Foundation.

More than 37,000 unique visitors logged onto the trafficking Web site to receive campaign information.

 

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