Human trafficking is a major problem across the globe, with an estimated 21 million victims bringing in $150 billion a year for traffickers.
Organizations in Pennsylvania are teaming up to try to put a stop to it.
Tammy McDonnell is a survivor of human sex trafficking. Suffering from drug addiction, she was offered a job at a Philadelphia body shop.
“And in turn, he sold me for sex to all his people there and I wasn’t allowed to leave,” McDonnell said.
Experts point to Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic and its interstate highway system as reasons for the problem. In 2017, calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline led to almost 200 cases.
“It happens everywhere, and it happens here in Pennsylvania,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said. “We’re doing everything that we can.”
PennDOT has trained driver’s license and welcome center employees to spot the signs of human trafficking.
“We’re happy to be part of the team that is looking at this extremely serious issue and doing whatever it is that we can,” Richards said.
Meanwhile, state police are working with local and federal authorities to investigate cases. Last month, a new state law went into effect to protect survivors like McDonnell from being prosecuted for things they were forced to do while victims.
“For so long, I always thought there was no humanity left, and I was just so grateful for people who are trying to make a difference,” McDonnell said.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888.