Truck driver Kevin Kimmel witnessed and put an end to an instance of human trafficking a few years ago. Now, he speaks about the importance of educating and changing the attitudes of truckers as a part of the fight against human trafficking.
One morning in January 2015 at a gas station in New Kent County, Virginia, Kimmel witnessed a strange scene. What appeared to be an unusual family recreational vehicle parked in the gas station’s parking lot actually held a sex trafficking victim, who was meeting a client.
“The thing that stuck out was that this was an old RV with black curtains which wasn’t very family-ish,” Kimmel remarked in an interview with CNN. Kimmel observed a man approaching the RV and a “minor female” peaking from behind the curtain. Upon seeing this, Kimmel immediately called the local sheriff and soon policemen arrived. They took a man and woman into custody while a “female in really bad shape” was rescued.
A couple months passed before Kimmel learned via televised news that the woman he rescued was a 20-year-old human trafficking victim who had been taken from her home in Iowa by couple Laura Sorenson and Aldair Hodza. Investigations revealed that the victim was subjected to intense torture, sexual assault, and forced prostitution. During the trial, it was also discovered that Sorenson and Hodza drove nails into the victim’s feet, branded her, and forced her to serve men at truck stops who learned of the victim’s “services” online. For their crimes, Sorenson was sentenced to 40 years in prison and Hodza was given 42 years.
Statistics show that a majority of sex trafficking victims are women and young children, but that men and boys are also found trapped in forced prostitution rings. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s data, reports of human trafficking have been submitted in all 50 states of America. The hotline refers to this epidemic as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his (or) her will.”
The ordeal inspired Kimmel to continue raising awareness of human trafficking as a speaker at anti-trafficking events across the nation. As a truck driver, Kimmel explains that many truckers, due to their job, frequent hot spots for meetups between trafficking victims and their clients.
“[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people,” said Kimmel. “They stay in the darkness. That’s why they can’t be anywhere too long,” he explains. “But when you’re moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant then we can make a big piece of this problem go away.”
Many organizations dedicated to stopping and preventing human trafficking look to educate truckers on the issue, as they are essential eyes on the highway. Nonprofits like Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) work to teach truckers about what to look for on the road and how to identify and report incidences. Thanks to these organizations, 3.5 million truckers are now equipped with the proper tools and education to identify and report trafficking incidences. The organization also helps to extinguish common misconceptions that surround the issue.
“We need to get rid of this thought that they (prostitutes who approach truckers) are doing it because they are putting themselves through college or that was the choice as that’s seldom the case,” explains Kimmel. “We need to inform truckers about what’s really going on.”
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