Holly Austin Smith, left, sex trafficking survivor and author of "Walking Prey," speaks during a September 2014 event in Washington, D.C., organized by Polaris. Britanny Vanderhoof, policy counsel for Polaris, is pictured at right. - Ryan Babb/Forum News Service
By Amy Dalrymple
Forum News Service
WASHINGTON - When Holly Austin Smith was at a New Jersey mall, trying on dresses as an older, intimidating guy looked on, she was clearly uncomfortable. But no one spoke up.
Cashiers could tell the 14-year-old looked out of place, but did nothing. A friend from school shopping with her mom seemed to notice something was off, but said hello and kept walking.
After the shopping trip, Smith was taken to Atlantic City, where she was prostituted for two days until law enforcement arrested her and later identified her as a trafficking victim.
Now Smith, author of “Walking Prey,” encourages the public to call the National Trafficking Resource Center hotline, 1-888-373-7888, if they see anything suspicious.
“All those people could have called the hotline if they had been properly educated and properly warned by the potential signs of human trafficking,” said Smith, who spoke to Forum News Service in a recent interview.
Polaris, the nonprofit that runs the hotline, encourages posting the hotline number in areas victims could see it. North Dakota is proposing to require rest stops and hospitals to publicize the hotline number.
“Many of them have access to mobile devices, they probably have phones, and lots of them don’t know the number to call,” said Polaris CEO Bradley Myles.
If you see potential trafficking or are a victim, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
- Phone: (888) 373-7888
- Email: NHTRC@PolarisProject.org
- Text: "INFO" or "HELP" to BeFree (233733)
Toll-free, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Confidential with interpreters available.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- Polaris, an anti-human trafficking organization
- Council on Abused Women’s Services of North Dakota or (888) 255-6240. CAWS oversees 20 crisis centers throughout the state.
- Williston-based 4Her North Dakota, services for female victims of sex trafficking
- Bismarck-based North Dakota FUSE, a Force to end Human Sexual Exploitation or (701) 934-5593
- The Blue Campaign, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security voice for efforts against human trafficking
- The Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice
- The Department of Labor or Trafficking in persons hotline: (888) 428-7581
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hotline: 1-800-THE-LOST / 1-800-843-5678