WEST CHESTER, PA — In an effort to increase awareness of human trafficking and provide a resource for victims, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Chester County Library System to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in bathroom stalls of all county libraries. The initiative kicked off at the beginning of July – coinciding with World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30th.
During an online program hosted by Chester County’s Henrietta Hankin Library, in which human trafficking survivor Ann Marie Jones, Chester County Sheriff Fredda Maddox and Carol Metzker, community outreach for the CCSO and survivor-ally, discussed local human trafficking, Jones described her ordeal. She had experienced homelessness as her trafficker held her through psychological and trauma bonding. She frequented public restrooms—at fast-food restaurants, parks and even a hospital lobby—to bathe in the sink.
At the end of the program Laura Presby, a reference librarian at Hankin Library, asked Jones a question. “If you were in a library during the period of time you were trafficked and you saw a sign with the human trafficking hotline in the bathroom, would you have called it?”
“If I had a cell phone, then I think I would have,” replied Jones.
Chester County Sheriff Fredda Maddox said, “The best protection is prevention. But as a community, the more informed we are about indicators for human trafficking and where to report tips, the better we can help individuals who need a way out.”
Joe Sherwood, Executive Director of the Chester County Library System, said, “The library is more than books and computers – it’s a place for vital information on many subjects presented in many formats. Offering resources about human trafficking to inform the public and help prevent it from happening is important.”
This effort will help to raise awareness about human trafficking and provide people with the resources they need to help prevent it from happening.
In 2012, Pennsylvania passed a law requiring the posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline in transportation stations, rest areas, truck stops, and certain bars and hotels. The purpose of the law is to increase awareness of human trafficking and to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward. However, while the posting of the hotline information is required in some establishments, it is voluntary for others. This means that many people are unaware of the resources available to them.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a vital resource for victims and potential victims of human trafficking. The hotline is run by Polaris and connects with law enforcement agencies in all areas of the United States. Call the hotline to report tips for suspected cases, ask questions and request resources: 1-888-3737-888 or text 233733 (BeFree). Calls can be anonymous or confidential.
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