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AG Nessel Hosts Human Trafficking Roundtable to Raise Awareness

HOLLAND – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was joined by elected officials and community leaders Friday to educate the public and business owners on the signs of human trafficking, which has the potential to increase as the summer tourism season nears. 

“Those victimized by traffickers face sexual, physical and emotional abuse – all for the purpose of control, submission and exploitation,” Nessel said. “That is why it is on all of us to look for the warning signs and better understand instances in which trafficking may be more prevalent. This includes sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. I appreciate our community partners for their work in combatting trafficking and I know together we can save and support those who feel helpless. I encourage everyone to take some time to review the resources available to better identify these instances of abuse. While we know statistics underrepresent the full picture, we can all arm ourselves with awareness that has the potential to save lives.” 

Friday’s roundtable discussion in Holland put an emphasis on Michigan’s busy summers when visitors come to enjoy the state’s vibrant communities. 

“It is truly unfortunate that human trafficking remains an issue that plagues our society,” Vice President of Government Affairs for the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) John McNamara said. “As the voice of Michigan’s hospitality industry, the MRLA remains committed to end human trafficking through education and elevated awareness of those working in the lodging industry and through our partnership with law enforcement and elected officials to better identify traffickers and potential victims in hotels.”   

“Human trafficking is devastating to families and individuals throughout our state, country, and world,” Holland Mayor Nathan Bocks said. “The City of Holland takes the safety of our residents, visitors, and friends very seriously during big events like Tulip Time and every day. I have the highest confidence in our public safety officers. They are highly skilled, highly trained, and dedicated to protecting every person in Holland every day. This week we are welcoming almost 500,000 visitors for wonderful family entertainment and beautiful flowers. The people of Holland look out for each other, our neighbors, and guests. Our goal is for every family and individual to enjoy all our great community has to offer and for everyone to return home safely.”  

“Human traffickers are now using new tactics to find potential victims and unfortunately, we know children can be the most vulnerable to become victims,” Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker said. “Education and awareness are just two important ways to combat all aspects of human trafficking. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office stands with our State and Federal law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human trafficking. Victims of crime are always our number one priority.” 

In late 2014, the legislature passed into law the Human Trafficking Commission Act which created the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission (MHTC) within the Department of Attorney General. In early 2015, the Governor made initial appointments of the 14 members and in early 2015 the Commission began their work. 

The Michigan Abolitionist Project (MAP) also took part in the awareness event today. The project works with the MHTC, other governmental task forces, service providers and anti-trafficking advocates in order to improve the collective response to human trafficking in Michigan. 

“MAP is dedicated to helping prevent and end human trafficking through community engagement, education, and awareness. We all have a part to play, it takes our whole community learning, collaborating, and taking action,” MAP Holland Community Group Leader Ashleigh O'Donnell said. “Human trafficking is a complex issue. This is why we need people from all sectors to make sustained contributions. Though many of us are in no position to quit our jobs to fight slavery full-time, that doesn’t mean we don’t care. By focusing on education and root causes, the Michigan Abolitionist Project helps everyday people to use their skills, passions, time, or finances for the work of justice.” 

Last month, the MHTC launched its own standalone site with a new design that prioritizes ease of access for virtual visitors. 

You can sign up online to receive updates from the Commission. All prior updates from the Commission are also available online

If you are a victim of human trafficking or have identified someone you think may need help, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888, or text 233733.  

The national, toll-free hotline is available to answer calls, texts, and chats from anywhere in the country, 24/7. All calls are confidential.