Truck driver Kevin Kimmel was at a gas station in New Kent County, Virginia on the morning of January 6, 2015 when he noticed something odd about a nearby recreational vehicle.

“The thing that stuck out was that this was an old RV with black curtains which wasn’t very family-ish,” he told CNN.

After seeing a man knock before entering and a female, who he believed to be a minor, emerge from behind the curtain before suddenly disappearing, Kimmel contacted the local sheriff.  

Take Action: Shine a Light on the Horrors of Modern Slavery

The following August, Aldair Hodza and Laura Sorenson were sentenced to 42 and 40 years in prison, respectively, for kidnapping, forced prostitution, and torture of a young woman.

During the trial, the couple admitted to drugging their victim, sexually assaulting her, and pimping her out through advertisements on Craigslist. They also admitted to torturing her.

Thanks to Kimmel’s vigilant eye, the victim was saved from this hell and justice was served to the perpetrators. Nevertheless, most trafficking stories don’t have such a happy ending.

Read More: My Name Is Brooke Axtell and I Was Sex Trafficked at Age 7 in the US

A $32 billion per year industry, human trafficking is the third-largest international crime industry behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking.

There were more than 7,500 human trafficking cases reported in the US in 2016, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.

A report from the United Nations last December found that 71% of trafficking victims are women and girls, and one-third are children. There are 1.2 million children trafficked every year, UNICEF estimates.

Boys are trafficked as well, typically for labor purposes as miners, soldiers, porters, and slaves. Women and girls are primarily trafficked for marriage and sex slavery, according to the report.  

Women in conflict zones are especially vulnerable to trafficking as militant groups often force them into sex slavery. Nadia Murad, a Iraqi Yazidi woman who was tortured and sexually abused by the Islamic State, implored the UN last March to take action against her captors.

“It is very hard to come here [to the UN] every time, and nothing tangible takes place,” she told Thompson Reuters Foundation. “It’s very hard for the victims as well to hear there is no progress.”

Though an international response may be necessary to shut down the global sex trade, individuals can help, too.

Read More: Native American Women Tell How They Survived Sex Trafficking

Last February, flight attendant Sheila Fedrick saved a trafficking victim mid-flight. Like Kimmel, she noticed something was wrong when an older, well-dressed man wouldn’t let a disheveled, adolescent girl, who was sitting with him, speak for herself. Fedrick placed a note on the plane’s restroom mirror asking if the girl was okay, to which the girl responded she needed help.

Fedrick had been trained to spot signs of trafficking, instruction that millions of truckers like Kimmel may receive soon.

Ohio already offers training to identify human trafficking for truck drivers receiving a Commercial Driver’s License, mandatory for anyone taking part in the state’s professional truck driver training program.

Texas is considering legislation requiring anyone looking to attain a Commercial License to take part in a human trafficking awareness course, according to CNN.  

Because truck drivers operate on the same infrastructure that is vital to human trafficking, they are in a unique position to double as reporters.

“At any given time in the United States there are more truckers out on the road than there are law enforcement officers,” said Kendis Paris, Executive Director of the anti-trafficking charity Truckers Against Trafficking. “A lot of guys are not sure if they’re really looking at prostitution or trafficking and they just need to be helped.”


Demand Equity

How One Truck Driver Saved a Woman From Sex Slavery

By James O'Hare