HT Blog

Youth, Technology, and Human Trafficking in the Time of COVID-19

July 21, 2020

Four months ago, we lived in a completely different world than the one we know now. Our new world includes rules and regulations of how close we can stand to one another and the use of face-coverings. Living during times not knowing when things will return to normal can be unsettling. However, certain things remain unchanged.

Current technology allows us to keep in touch with friends and family as we continue to learn how to manage the new normal. This is especially true for our youth. It is no secret that young people are  tied to their technology. Children today have access to social networks, instant messaging, etc. Additionally, due to the pandemic, schools have transitioned to e-learning, allowing students as young as five and six to now have access to the internet. As a result of all this, kids today are online more than ever before. It is our job as adults to ensure our children are navigating the online world safely.

While the pandemic has shut-down businesses, canceled events, and kept us all at home, human traffickers and buyers have yet to cease. Human trafficking, and specifically sex trafficking of children, still exists despite social distancing protecting us from COVID-19.

During this unprecedented time, we need parents to please listen up, as child predators are out there. Many children have stated that their parents never check their phones or computers.

It is important for parents to understand that access to youth through the internet is easier than most assume. Learning the skills and measures necessary to protect their children is essential. We have included at the end of this blog post a list of online resources parents can use to increase the security of the devices their children are using. The reality is that even if children are using a school computer, which often has extra levels of firewalls and safety measures in place, such protections can still be deactivated, putting youth at danger even while they are e-learning.

While recognizing that trusting your child and allowing their privacy is important, the protection of your child from the dangers of the internet is the main priority. Sex trafficking has not been postponed. Commercial sexual exploitation has not been canceled. These horrific encounters occur daily and may even have increased in the virtual realm.

Parents of today’s youth: have conversations with your children about the risks of the internet. Gain their trust. Remain aware of their online engagements. Using the listed resources, implement the appropriate security measures to ensure their continued internet safety. in addition to these resources, the top three step parents can take are the following:

First, be proactive and monitor your child’s online activity. Children are recruited, bought and sold online. Go beyond safeguards of just installing monitoring software. Second, geolocation GPS. Enabled smartphones can reveal your child’s location through online posts and sharing of photos online. Third, set ground rules. Establish clear guidelines and expectations. Talk to your children about protecting themselves online.


IPATH Partner Spotlight: Riley Hospital’s Pediatric Center of Hope and Forensic Nursing Program

June 18, 2020

Riley Hospital’s Pediatric Center of Hope & Forensic Nursing Program offers private, individual, and compassionate care to children of potential maltreatment. The Center of Hope is housed in the Emergency Department at Riley Hospital for Children.  This program serves all ages of children from infancy to adolescents under eighteen years of age, with allegations of sexual abuse, molestation, sexual assault, human trafficking, physical abuse and neglect.

The Center of Hope nurse can be contacted by several different sources informing the nurse of a potential patients impending arrival. This may include: a concerned guardian or family member, a healthcare provider, a Family Case Manager from Department of Child Services, or a Law Enforcement personnel.  A forensic nurse is readily available and on call 24 hours a day.

As a patient of the Center of Hope, each individual is evaluated by a specially trained forensic nurse.  We provide services consisting of a complete medical evaluation.  The evaluation may include forensic swab collection for the State of Indiana Sexual Assault Evidence Kit.  Often the evaluations are initiated as an emergent and urgent basis and will likely include forensic photography along with the exam.  Forensic photography may also be requested for a traumatic event such as, but not limited to, burns or gunshot wounds.  Also available during evaluations of Center of Hope patients are testing and treatment of potential sexually transmitted infections and diseases.  Even though Center of Hope is located in Riley Hospital’s Emergency Department, there is a private secured area that Center of Hope patients are taken to. This is to ensure that our patients feel safe and comfortable during this crisis situation.

Throughout the time that a patient is at the Center of Hope, the forensic nurse collaborates with a multidisciplinary team. This team includes physicians of the Child Protection Team, Emergency Room staff, social workers, Law Enforcement, and DCS.  The goal of this partnership is to provide each patient with a holistic care approach and support, while simultaneously caring for the unique needs of these individuals.  Although this visit occurs in the hospital, a COH nurse consistently provides follow-up phone calls and will remain readily available to answer questions as well as to provide counseling resources and assistance with future follow-up needs.

For further interest or for questions, please call:

Tanya Malone, RN @ 317-948-4953 or Jamie Haddix, RN @ 317-944-4673.

To reach one of us regarding a potential patient, please call:

317-944-5000 and ask for the Center of Hope nurse on call.


Pride Month and Human Trafficking

June 11, 2020

By: LGBTQIA+ Working Group

Does anyone recall Britney Spears’ meltdown of 2008? It was a difficult time for myself to look upon this starlet I had revered for 10 years unravel in front of my eyes. I certainly didn’t know Britney personally, but nevertheless my heart hurt for her. I couldn’t imagine having my life scrutinized under a microscope from every person in the world. I heard rumors slowly leak from anyone who could form words. At the time, I was caught off guard by how a community that praised the results of her pop product for years had suddenly turned on a dime to dismiss her. I remember stating; “She’ll get through this!” and “Imagine being her in this situation? You should rally behind her and know that everyone needs support from time to time.” Those words stand true today in different way.

Why do I bring this up? COVID-19 has had me stating the same things. Instead of dismantling people’s accusatory stance, I’m stating: We will get through this! We have been dealt this situation, and we as a community can be there for each other. Perhaps, just not in a way we have before.

In the human trafficking space, it isn’t uncommon to hear about vulnerable populations, or groups/populations who are considered to be more vulnerable to exploitation. And without fail, you almost always see LGBTQIA+ listed as a vulnerable population, but there has not always been a clearly defined reason why. It was because of this gap in knowledge that the LGBTQIA Working Group was created a little over a year ago.

For years, studies have shown LGBTQIA+ individuals experience higher rates of homelessness, struggle with substance abuse, experience higher rates of suicidal ideation, and consistently struggle to find resources that are culturally comprehensive to their needs. That is why the LGBTQIA+ Working Group has dedicated its time and resources to developing trainings on facilitating conversations on how agencies and organizations can be more culturally comprehensive to the needs in this community. When you take this knowledge and then apply it to what makes someone more vulnerable to experiencing exploitation and trafficking, LGBTQIA+ individuals are consistently checking multiple boxes on that list.

What cannot go unrecognized however,  is the love and support within the LGBTQ+ community. Whether its agencies coming together to hold community nights, resource sharing, or Indy Pride, our community will always persevere.  This is the mantra circulating in the air for the LGBTQIA + working group as well as our collaborative partners.

And that means we must acknowledge the flawed system that surrounds us. The struggle of our current nation is the reality that so many have desperately tried to navigate for generations. When addressing decades, if not centuries, of trauma, it could even be stated that this system was not built for us. And how do you thrive, let alone survive, in a system that is not designed to support you?

We have been invisible to the “protectors” of this land. We do not fit the prototype our parents, grandparents, and ancestors put in place. We have been told time and time again that if we do not conform, we have no place at the table.

No more will we allow this mantra to continue. Our need to be there for one another is paramount. The LGBTQIA+ working group maintains its original mission to ensure that we are providing resources, sharing networks, and staying up to date with community information.

This month is Pride Month. In 1969, our predecessors fought back against the brutality they experienced at the hands of the police. This month we harken their words even more soundly to stand with our chosen “Family”. No longer will your words go unheeded. No longer will we allow our theydies, and gentlethems to be unacknowledged.

We are listening. We are demonstrating. We are unified.


But What Can I Do?: The Importance of Community 

May 7, 2020

By: Hannah Verdin

Anyone who has presented on domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is often posed with an audience question of “But what can I do to help this sex trafficking situation?”  It’s a fair question, since after hearing the realities of human trafficking, the world can seem rather dark and dim – a ray of hope would be helpful.  Of course, one can be aware of the red flags and report suspicions to the human trafficking hotline (1 (888) 373-7888), and some appreciate that they have a resource and are comfortable with that as “what they can do.”

But if you’re like me, you may be unsatisfied with only a response solution to DMST.  The response is absolutely necessary, but what can we do to keep the red flags from ever waving for the youth in our communities?

The answer is in the power of connection and relationship.  During this pandemic, many of us have begun to realize the impacts of having to reduce connection with those we love.  Many who have experienced DMST have known these impacts their whole lives.  Trust and connection are often seen as a luxury that comes at the price of one’s safety in “the life.”  However, the only way that I have witnessed to get out of “the life” is trust and connection with the resources that are able to meet them where they are at.

Our youth are struggling with the feeling of being together and alone – much like the feeling we have had from this pandemic.  Creating authentic community helps us both be together and feel together (with time).  So the answer to your question of “What can I do?” is to create authentic connection, relationship, and community with the youth in our lives.  Connection often involves the feelings of “you’re not alone” and “I want to be here with you, because you’re you.”  Bonding over shared experiences, values, or interests.  And being willing to learn something from the other, valuing that they may have knowledge that you do not.

Connection is easy if you take the first step, and are committed to taking the next.  There are many ways to get involved with the youth in your community, and we would recommend checking out your city’s website to see what local mentorship and tutoring opportunities there are.  You can also become a mentor with Purchased ( or Big Brothers Big Sisters (  If you’re interested in getting further involved, we highly encourage you to consider fostering (!


What Would I Do? Curriculum Updates and COVID-19

April 29, 2020

Mark Cuban is quoted as saying “Wherever there is change, and wherever there is uncertainty, there is opportunity!” 2020 has been full of change and uncertainty, but it has also been full of opportunity for the CAPE committee’s Youth Working Group (YWG). The opportunity to serve, educate, and advocate for youth has taken on a new challenge in these unprecedented times. However, the YWG was not empty handed, because in February, a newly revised and updated version of the evidence-based trafficking prevention curriculum, What Would I Do? (WWID?) was launched. Then, at the beginning of April A Conversation with IPATH, it’s e-learning adaptation and response to COVID-19, was released.

WWID? was created because of lack of age appropriate information about abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Through three age specific modules, Indiana’s youth between 5th and 12th grade are offered space to think critically and speak openly about healthy relationships, cultural messages, harmful stereotypes, barriers to seeking help, strategies for staying safe, and action steps for responding to unsafe situations. Relevant, real life scenarios are presented through a series of interactive activities to engage the youth and foster critical conversations. WWID? aligns with Indiana’s Academic Standards and is the first curriculum of its kind. Since launching the updated WWID? on February 19, there have been 14 presentations in 5 different counties to over 500 students. These presentations were delivered by one of the 33 trained facilitators from 12 who were trained at official training sessions in February and March.

The newest WWID? includes important updates and revisions, necessary to stay both evidence and research based. The biggest changes were to language, accessibility, and design. Language is vital when working with youth, and inclusivity equally so. In the five years since the curriculum’s creation, language has grown and changed to become more inclusive. WWID? has adapted inclusive language to be as relatable as possible to everyone. Accessibility of the curriculum to students has also grown. Each age-specific module now has facilitation length options to fit the needs of individual schools and programs. Core activities and key concepts have been outlined for facilitators so WWID? is presentable regardless of time available. This is part of the new design, as well. Trained facilitators receive easily navigable manuals for each age-specific module with laminated activity materials. This makes it easier for facilitations to feel natural and for facilitators to present with confidence and clarity.

The most recent and perhaps biggest change, however, is the reworking of WWID? for online learning. A Conversation with IPATH focuses on healthy and unhealthy relationships in real life and online, as well as consent culture and safety in both types of relationships. It has been pieced together from the activities in WWID? to provide the foundation of the curriculum as best as possible through e-learning. A Conversation with IPATH does not replace WWID? but rather makes the most crucial information immediately available with an expanded focus on online safety.

The YWG is grateful for the opportunity to address the needs of the community as the challenges faced by Indiana’s youth change with the new and uncertain social culture. The updated WWID? and related A Conversation with IPATH could not have been finalized at a better, more important time. For more information on either program, please contact the Youth Curriculum Coordinator, Darcy Wade at

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January 15, 2020

By: Danie M. Becknell, M.A.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so we’re coming together to bring you a series of posts about human trafficking. The first step in making a positive change is raising awareness, and while it may seem there is not anything we can do to combat this global problem, there are things each one of us can do. An individual can learn the common indicators for human trafficking and call in suspicious activities to their local law enforcement agency or the national hotline. Businesses can ensure forced labor is not used in their supply chains. Our local and national governments can make the investigation and persecution of human trafficking a priority. Each action, no matter how small it may seem, can make a world of a difference in the life of a victim of human trafficking.

If you believe someone is a victim of human trafficking, and there is immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, call or text National Human Trafficking Hotline, and if a minor is involved also contact the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.


What is Human Trafficking?

The United States of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”1 The Polaris Project goes further by defining human trafficking as, “the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud, or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal, or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.”2

Human Trafficking can happen in any community. Hitting home, in Indiana there were 41 businesses identified as trafficking humans, with 142 total cases of sex and labor trafficking in 2018. Victims can be any age, race, gender identity, or nationality, so it is important to learn the common indicators outlined below. Nationwide in the 2019 fiscal year there were 1,024 investigations with a connection to human trafficking. Bearing that in mind, Indiana had more than 10% of our country’s human trafficking investigations.3 Over the past decade the human trafficking national hotline received 32,208 cases of potential human trafficking in the United States. 4

Due to many reasons, victims frequently do not always seek help. This may be due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers, fear of law enforcement and trauma caused by the trafficking itself and/or trauma from past life events.

Traffickers look for people who are susceptible for several reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • psychological or emotional vulnerability,
  • economic hardship,
  • lack of a supportive social network of friends and/or family,
  • natural disasters, or
  • political instability.

If you believe someone is a victim of human trafficking, and there is immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, call or text National Human Trafficking Hotline, and if a minor is involved also contact the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.


Common Indicators of Human Trafficking

As mentioned above, it is important to recognize key indicators of human trafficking. Recognizing these indicators of trafficking may help save a life. The list below is not all inclusive, and not every victim will present with every indicator. Additionally, these indicators may not guarantee that someone is a victim of human trafficking. Commonly we also see similar indicators in victims of domestic violence and/or child abuse. 5

Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?

  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

The United States Department of Homeland Security has created the Blue Campaign to help bring awareness to Human Trafficking as a national and global problem. 6 Through this campaign you can learn more and download a human trafficking indicator card that will help you remember the signs of human trafficking. 7

If you believe someone is a victim of human trafficking, and there is immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, call or text National Human Trafficking Hotline, and if a minor is involved also contact the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. 


Types of Human Trafficking

To help us better identify human trafficking, the Polaris Project’s research team developed a classification system that identifies 25 types of human trafficking in the United States. These include, but are not limited to, 8

  • Escort Services
  • Illicit Massage, Health, & Beauty
  • Residential Domestic Work
  • Bars, Strip Clubs, & Cantinas
  • Pornography
  • Restaurants & Food Service
  • Agriculture & Animal Husbandry
  • Health & Beauty Services
  • Construction
  • Hotels & Hospitality Landscaping
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Commercial Cleaning
  • Services Factories & Manufacturing
  • Remote Interactive Sexual Acts
  • Carnivals
  • Forestry & Logging
  • Health Care
  • Recreational Facilities

Some of these categories may be what we would expect when looking at human trafficking due to what we commonly see on TV and in the movies. Yet, others may be surprising, such as forestry and health care facilities. The ways humans are exploited differ greatly. For more information on the typology of human trafficking you can read the full report here.

If you believe someone is a victim of human trafficking, and there is immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, call or text National Human Trafficking Hotline, and if a minor is involved also contact the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. 


The Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force (IPATH) works with survivors and advocates to effectively prevent, detect, and prosecute human trafficking in Indiana, while empowering and supporting survivors. 9

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls, texts, and live chats from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. The National Hotline’s mission is to connect human trafficking victims and survivors to critical support and services to get help and stay safe, and to equip the anti-trafficking community with the tools to effectively combat all forms of human trafficking. The National Hotline offers round-the-clock access to a safe space to report tips, seek services, and ask for help.


  1. United States Department of Homeland Security. What is Human Trafficking.
  2. Polaris Project.
  3. Human Trafficking Hotline. 2018 Indiana State Report.
  4. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Human Trafficking.
  5. Social Care Institute for Excellence. Safeguarding Adults. Types and Indicators of Abuse.
  6. United Stated Department of Homeland Security. Blue Campaign.
  7. United Stated Department of Homeland Security. Blue Campaign Indicator Card.
  8. Polaris Project. Types of Modern Slavery.
  9. Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault. Human Trafficking.