By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor
Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865. Even though it’s now illegal, forms of it still exist. Hundreds of thousands are estimated to be victims of human trafficking in the United States alone.
One of the main forms of modern day slavery is human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is essentially modern day slavery,” said Dr. Linda Burkle, Social Services director at The Salvation Army.
Human trafficking can be broken down into two categories-labor trafficking and sexual trafficking. Labor trafficking is made up of domestic service, sweatshops and factories, and other types of work. Sexual trafficking consists of prostitution, mail-order brides and similar offenses. Sexual trafficking should not be confused with labor trafficking.
It’s tough to put concrete numbers and statistics on human trafficking. While the offense may be human trafficking, law enforcement often put down “pandering” or other terms to make it easier to prosecute the suspect.
“They charge them with a crime with the best success of conviction,” Burkle said.
It incredibly difficult to mark just how many human trafficking cases take place in the United States and in Nebraska each year.
That’s where Legislative Bill 1145 comes into play. The bill mandated the Nebraska State Task Force on Human Trafficking with positions appointed by Gov. Dave Heineman.
Burkle was appointed to the task force as the head of one of three subcommittees.
Burkle’s subcommittee was devoted to developing training curriculum for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, public defenders and those involved in the juvenile justice system.
Burkle has worked with human trafficking for four decades, both domestically and internationally.
“I’ve seen the Red Light District in Amsterdam,” Burkle said. “Women are for sale in picture windows.”
Human trafficking is the third most lucrative business for organized crime behind drugs and weapons.
“You can sell a drug once,” Burkle said. “You can sell a person over and over.”
Burkle serves on the statewide group, Nebraska Network Against Trafficking of Humans and is a charter member of The Salvation Army National Anti-Trafficking Council. This formed in 2002 as a result of the first legislature regarding human trafficking. The council has worked to provide and develop training curriculum for social service providers.
The Salvation Army’s Wellspring program is linked to human trafficking. While it houses participants getting out of prostitution, many of them may have been human trafficking victims as children.
“Most victims of human trafficking end up in prostitution,” Burkle said. “They are not the same thing. They truly are slaves. They have no rights. This is my passion.”