Over 5,000 human trafficking survivors identified in Michigan, more likely unreported

(Atlanta News First)
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 4:43 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:15 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - More than 5,000 human trafficking survivors have been identified across the state of Michigan since 2007, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said there are likely many more. She wants to see laws changed so survivors of human trafficking don’t have to be afraid to report their trafficker. And advocacy groups said these changes are needed.

“It really is heartbreaking,” said Mary Suarez, the Hope Project’s Development & Advocacy Manager.

The Hope Project helps girls and women who survived being trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked. In January, the group helped more than 150 people, some are as young as 9 years old.

“A little girl came forward and said ‘I’m getting ready to meet this guy’ and they literally arrested him coming in on a plane,” said Suarez.

And stories like that aren’t unique. Nessel said she believes there are many more similar stories they don’t know about.

“Most of the time it is because they are under complete control of their trafficker, and also because their trafficker put them in a position where they are actually committing crimes,” said Nessel.

There have been proposals in the legislature over the last few years, but the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission said they didn’t get out of committees.

Nessel is proposing a set of laws that won’t punish someone for crimes they committed while they were trafficked and clear their records. She thinks the democratic-controlled legislature will pass it.

“I just had a senator reach out to me yesterday, saying she is interested in this. She wants to move forward with a lot of our proposals and wants to engage in those conversations as early as possible,” said Nessel.

Suarez said those conversations can’t happen soon enough.

“It’s so sad we have to be there to do something like this,” said Suarez.

There is no clear picture of just how bad the problem is. The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission just finalized guidelines on what information it will collect from agencies, like the Hope Project.

Nessel said when they get the information, they’ll be able to direct resources to areas where it is needed.

There are many red flags someone is being trafficked, you can learn about them on the Attorney General’s website.

There are many resources available for someone who was trafficked, you can learn about them on the Michigan Court’s website.

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