HOUSTON - A Houston oil executive’s fight against human trafficking is reaching all around the world in a global campaign to end modern-day slavery. One thing that’s playing a major role to help stop people from selling other people is a mobile human trafficking museum. Seeing inside the human trafficking awareness truck is a peek into a dark world that millions are forced into.
”It’s a really powerful demonstration of how heinous these crimes are,” says Shell Oil GM of Marketing Fergie Theriault.
The mobile museum features disturbing yet eye-opening videos and displays such as an outfit a teen often wore while she was sold to men for sex in casinos for years. There’s also a mirror with a sticker that reads “Nasty Girl” where 14- and 15-year-old cousins had to practice stripping. They were sold for sex in strip clubs, motels, and truck stops.
”It's just very sad that it's happening around us and we don't see it,” says Marathon Oil employee Raquel Cleary.
This campaign actually tells us we often do see it but don’t know victims and their traffickers are hiding in plain sight.
”When you're in public places you may see someone that two people don't look like they should be together. You see a girl that's not looking you in the eye. She’s looking down. She’s not allowed to look at other people,” says Houston Oil executive Jennifer Hohman who’s the Vice President at Seadrill.
Hohman personally knew four girls who were trafficked. So she helped start the Oil and Gas Trafficking Awareness Group. Now, 45 oil companies and hundreds of thousands of their workers worldwide are on board too.
”A lot of it is just teaching our employees, one, how to recognize it and what are some things they can do to report it. Each and every day just in Texas there are by most estimates 300,000 people that are being subjected to some form of human trafficking,” explains CEO of Marathon Oil Lee Tillman.
”We want to do all we can so our employees will be able to spot human trafficking, intervene, and hopefully put an end to it,” says Theriault.
The companies such as Marathon and Shell Oil are not only educating employees at administrative offices but also at corner gas stations.
"The biggest thing is to protect your family. You can do that by simply talking about it. Even in churches and schools our children are being groomed and lured. So you have to have a conversation about everything. Our website gives parents six signs to look for to see if their kids are being groomed and lured online,” explains Hohman.
A big red flag for parents is isolation.
“Then all of a sudden they have a new friend group and they are not the people you want your child to hang around with. Then what's happening is they're not only isolating, they're keeping them away from their families. They're turning the children away from their parents,” explains Hohman.
Oil and gas workers are now learning all about it, including how prostitutes are usually enslaved, being trafficked and are not free to make their own choices.
"This is not a woman saying I want to sell my body 20 times a day,” adds Hohman.
"It's an uncomfortable topic but it's one that we just simply won't be able to get in front of unless we all come together on it,” says Tillman.
The group Truckers Against Trafficking travels the U.S. with the mobile exhibit. They’ve trained 845,000 truckers to spot modern-day slaves.
"We direct all of our truckers to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline if they suspect human trafficking happening and to date, we've had almost 2,500 calls made by truckers to that hotline which has resulted in over 660 likely cases,” explains Ashley Smith with Truckers Against Trafficking and Smith says that does not include all of the calls made to 911 and local law enforcement.
There’s also CB on display in the mobile museum. It was used to call in one trucker's suspicion. It led to the bust of a 13 state sex trafficking ring.
The goal is to have so many eyes on this awful issue, traffickers can no longer hide.