Omaha company on a mission to end human trafficking

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Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 16:37:08-05

It’s a $150 billion dollar industry; human trafficking is happening right here in Omaha.

More than 250,000 people are trafficked in the United States every year making trafficking the second largest criminal enterprise worldwide.

Ann Brewer with Women’s Fund Omaha says it’s often overlooked because people think it doesn’t happen where they live. 

“It happens in hotels. It happens in private homes. It happens in person cars.  It can happen anywhere,” Brewer said.

Victims of human trafficking are coerced into performing commercial sex acts through fraud, force or threat of violence.  Officials say the survival rate of human trafficking victims is extremely short.

"The average life span of someone who is trafficked is 7 years,” Brewer said. “7 years from the minute they are first introduced or force to engage in a commercial sex act until they are dead and it's death by homicide suicide or some type of illness."

Brewer says studies prove the victim could be anyone, even children.  She says 80 percent of trafficking transactions are happening online.  "Literally if you have a smart phone or electronic device in a few clicks you can upload your image, upload your advertisement and literally sit and wait for your phone to ring."

But now local organizations are working together to educate the community on how to spot human trafficking and eventually put a stop to it.  Werner Enterprises is one of the five largest truckload carriers in the United States.  They are getting involved, on a mission to stop human trafficking.  Werner Enterprises has teamed up with the national non-profit, Truckers Against Trafficking.

 "Our drivers are in areas where they could see potential traffic victims that they could intervene and educate enforcement on where potentially find these people and help them out," said Jamie Maus, Vice President of Safety and Compliance, at Werner Enterprises.

Werner Enterprises has 7,300 trucks and employs more than 9,000 drivers.  Those drivers go through multiple trainings a year, learning how to recognize signs of human trafficking and how to report it.

"The worse thing they can do is walk away and not do anything about it,” Maus said.  “If they even think it's a potential victim, they want to make that call."

One human trafficking survivor is getting involved locally.  Sakura Yodogwa Campbell says 12 years ago she was in an abusive relationship.  Her boyfriend would take her paychecks and then force her to earn them back through trafficking. She now tells her story to educate others.  Yodogwa Campbell says traffickers prey on the vulnerable.  

"I was what I considered to be a very strong person and so it was kind of a shock for me to find myself in that kind of situation.  I had never been physically abused before," she said.

When the violence got out of control Yodogwa Campbell said she knew she had to get out or she would end up dead.  She’s using her experience to help others fight similar situations.  She now advocates for victims and is spreading a strong message to put a stop to human trafficking.

"You're not buying sex; you're buying a human being," said Yodogwa Campbell.

If you suspect sex trafficking, report it to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or text HELP to BEFREE (233733).