Sometimes, there is only the smallest window of opportunity for a survivor of human trafficking to reach out to us at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (NHTRC). Perhaps, they find that one moment when a controller steps out of the house. Or maybe, a survivor emerges for just long enough for a neighbor to reach out and give her the hotline number.
This is why it is crucial for the NHTRC to stay operating 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, even during the most severe weather conditions. We never know when that window of opportunity will arise, and we want to be there when it does.
When Superstorm Sandy ravaged much of the mid-Atlantic and New England regions last month, it left many of us without power and heat, and disrupted countless lives. However, the National Human Trafficking Hotline did not go down for a single minute. Most of us in the Washington, DC area were lucky enough to get away relatively unscathed. Our hearts go out to everyone still suffering and rebuilding after the storm, including some of our New Jersey staff and clients who were affected.
While the storm raged outside, we immediately switched to our emergency back-up structure. The hotline never went unanswered: we took more than 150 calls during the storm, including numerous reports of potential human trafficking situations, crisis calls, and requests for survivor services. We hope to give strength to those we serve by knowing that the NHTRC won’t let a hurricane interfere with the support we provide to survivor of human trafficking.
All of us on the hotline strive to be a constant resource for victims of human trafficking, especially in times of crisis. Since we began operating the hotline in December 2007, we have taken more than 63,000 calls and connected more than 7,200 survivors of human trafficking to services and support. In 2012 alone, we helped 3,000 people escape their trafficking situation or access assistance. This is why Polaris Project believes that the National Human Trafficking Hotline is the most effective tool to identify and reach more human trafficking survivors.
However, we know that we are still only scratching the surface of the problem, and we refuse to let a natural disaster impede our ability to offer the support that so many people desperately need.