Anti-human trafficking posters go up in state rest area bathrooms
In 2016, The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 300 calls from Oregon -- almost one a day.
The number is expected to increase following the installation of anti-human trafficking posters at highway rest areas statewide.
On Friday, the anti-human trafficking posters were installed at 30 locations.
Before last year, hanging posters at rest areas was illegal.
Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, authored Senate Bill 375, following a conversation with a constituent, who noticed the posters at rest area bathrooms in East Coast states. The constituent asked why the posters were not displayed in Oregon.
Hansell learned the practice was illegal.
SB 375 changed the law and laid the foundation for the crime-fighting initiative.
“I think people would be surprised, shocked, to find out just how much of this trade actually takes place within Oregon," Hansell told KATU. "Even if just one individual is saved from these posters, the bill would have been well worth it."
The posters are replicas of "Freedom Stickers," which were designed by Central Oregon nonprofit In Our Backyard. Freedom Stickers are commonly found in Oregon bars, and gas stations and truck stops.
The posters list the phone number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. They also provide a text-for-help option. The informational text is in English and Spanish.
The posters are strategically placed in the bathroom, both men's and women's, as both genders are subject to trafficking.
In Our Backyard Executive Director Nita Belles told KATU studies show that the bathroom is one of the most effective place to reach a victim of human trafficking.
"We received input from survivors saying that sometimes they wait in the restrooms for their traffickers to let them know when their next date is," Belles said. "It’s a very effective place for someone to be able to get help."
The posters also serve as reminders to the public that human, sex and labor trafficking is real and far more prevalent than we think.
"Most times we don’t see it. It is by design, hidden," Belles said. "Every ZIP code in the United States, 24-7, human trafficking is happening. It is the worst atrocity I have ever seen on the planet."
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888 or you can text “Help” or “Info” to 233733. Anyone needing help or knows of someone in need of help should call. The hotline is managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed with employees to speak to you in more than 200 languages.
The national hotline alerts local authorities, who respond.
SB 375 passed unanimously with bi-partisan support in 2017. The state provided about $10,000 in initial funding. Future funding will come from public and private donors. An account through the state Treasurer's Office was created.