14 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Services

14 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Services

UAHT is producing a five-part series on labor trafficking. Through this blog series, we are providing information and tips to identify labor trafficking! 

Today, we are focusing on how to spot red flags in storefront services like nail salons, restaurants, massage parlors, spas, and auto repair shops – anywhere that provides a service. 

As a customer, you may spot signs of labor trafficking in stores that you regularly visit. We want you to be equipped with the right questions to ask yourself before you report your suspicions! 

Remember every case of trafficking is different, and there’s no single form. These questions are a guide, not a formula.

Staff Behavior Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Staff Behavior

1. What is communication at the site like?

Who is talking? Do workers appear to be coached on what they say, closely watched when they speak, or seem unwilling or unable to communicate with others?

2. Do you notice signs of physical or emotional abuse?

This can include unexplained bruises, lapses in memory, undue anxiety, appearing malnourished, etc. 

Store Environment Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Store Environment

3. What is the work environment like?

Do you notice dangerous conditions, workers operating equipment without proper safety gear, training, adequate breaks and other protections? 

4. What security measures are in place?

Are there camera monitoring entrances and employees, or unusual security measures (locks activated on the outside of doors, barbed wire facing inwards on a fence, bars on windows, etc)? This could mean that employees are heavily monitored and unable to leave on their own, and are meant to be kept in. 

5. Do they appear to be living in their workplace, or come and go with their employer?

Their living situation and movement could be controlled by a trafficker.  

6. Do you notice small children working?

While children do have labor rights, including the right to work, exceptionally young children or children working in unsafe or inappropriate positions is a red flag for labor exploitation 

7. Does the worker or workplace lack professional licensing?

Places like massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and nail salons are required to have licenses to operate in Texas, and you have the right to ask to see it if you don’t see one displayed.  

8. Do you notice any obvious safety violations?

This could be something you see: open chemical containers, fire hazards, employees working without proper protective gear. It could also be something you notice with other senses: For example, if there is a strong smell of chemicals in a place like a nail salon, that’s a clear indicator that there’s not enough ventilation in the area.  

Control over finances can indicate human labor trafficking

Financial Control

9. Do workers mention owing a debt to their employer?

This is a sign of debt bondage, a common control measure by traffickers.  They also might mention not being paid the wages they were promised by their employer. This is wage theft, and is a clear example of labor exploitation. 

10. Who handles the money?

Are you allowed to tip the person providing the service directly, or does someone in the business make it clear that money is to be handled through another party? What is payment like—is it cash only? Do you see a third party clearly controlling all finances? 

Ask Questions to Identify Human Trafficking

Ask Directly

If it is safe and you feel comfortable, you can ask an employee a few questions. Do not force answers. 

You can strike up a casual conversaion:

11. How’d you get this job?

If they mention a romantic partner or family member pressuring them to take it, that could be an indicator. Most traffickers aren’t strangers to the victim; they’re more likely to be people the victim knows directly. It’s a relationship that is being exploited through force, fraud, or coercion, and it’s important to get stereotypes out of our heads when thinking about trafficking.  

12. What made you want to start working here?

Again, if they mention pressure from partners or family members, take notice.  

13. How do you like working here? 

This can give the worker an opening to mention red flags on their own terms—long hours, owing a debt, their employer withholding their identification documents, and so on.  

What to do when you notice red flags of human trafficking

What To Do If You Notice Multiple Red Flags

Now that you have this handy list of signs, here’s what to do if you suspect labor trafficking:

1. Wait until you are off-location

In order to protect yourself and the potential victim from punishment or being moved from the location, wait until you are out-of-sight and out-of-earshot of potential traffickers.

2. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

If it has taken place in the Houston area, please contact us at United Against Human Trafficking to report your credible tip. We offer direct services, including case management for victims of human trafficking.

3. Inform others of these red flags, and let them know about the issue.

Spreading awareness is the first step in this journey towards freedom for all, and community members like you are an important part of that step. Spread the word! 

Finally, continue to watch this space for more on labor trafficking! Our next segment will be focused on storefront shopping. Thank you again for dedicating your time to becoming a more informed consumer, and for your commitment to fight for a world where all can be free.   

Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up! This one may feel a little (or a whole lot) different. It’s harder to see people, and shopping in stores is not an option for mostThe one thing that’s going to remain constant though? Our love for the moms in our life.  

Some of us are celebrating our own mothers; some of us are helping our little ones celebrate our partners. Some are honoring the moms of their found family. No matter what your family structure looks like, it’s a day to show some extra love to the maternal figures in your life! And we’re here to help, with some ethically-sourced gift ideas for you.  

1. A Full Belly and a happy heart

Fair Trade Foods

The way to the heart is through the stomach–what better way to show it than by gifting the maternal figure in your life a meal that will taste good and feel good?

Chocolates are a surefire win for the mom who loves sweets. Local Houston stores like Chocolate Bar and Araya Chocolate are some of our recommendations. You can also check out national brands like Divine, Endangered Species Chocolate, or Tony’s Chocoloney.

If mom’s more of a brunch person, a breakfast in bed (or porch) is sure to make her smile. Check out some fair trade recipes here   

2. Accessories fit for a queen

Fair Trade Jewelry

Give the gift of jewelry to your mother–and the gift of freedom to a survivor of trafficking with these products. These are either made by survivors, or support organizations that combat human trafficking. Most can be ordered online if the physical storefront is closed.  

Noonday Collection is a great source for ethical products supporting a variety of causes. Be sure to check out their accessories collection online 

Another site to shop at for accessories is Trades of Hope. They fight human trafficking, and keep moms with their kids, by providing stable and sustainable work for women artisans across the globe. This Mother’s Day, you can give a gift not just to the maternal figure in your life, but to a mom overcoming difficult circumstances too. 

3. A relaxing space

Fair Trade Scents

Candles and other scented products are a classic for a reason. Check out these ethically sourced products for Mom! 

Elijah Rising’s candles provide employment for survivors of human trafficking, and proceeds help fund long-term comprehensive care for adult survivors. They also offer soaps and other bath products on their website!  Winton and Waits, based in Fort Worth, carries amazing products like rollerball scents, bath products, and scented oil diffusers. 

Meanwhile, Sparrow House Botanicals sells products that are made by survivors of human trafficking. Made with ethically sourced ingredients, these products also help fund aftercare for women who have escaped sex trafficking. They have a variety of botanical products—if you have trouble choosing, they also have convenient gift sets! 

4. Quick Gifts

Available for pick-up or fast delivery

Okay, be honest. We’ve all been there. It’s a few days before the big day, and you only just realized it’s coming up. No gift in mind? No problem! Here are some quick and easy products that you can get in a pinch, without feeling guilty about the rush.  

Lush’s storefronts may be closed, but their online delivery is still going strong! Check out their adorable (and ethical!) Mother’s Day themed products here.  

Fair trade flowers are another Mother’s Day staple. Florists like Sense Ecuador are a great choice. You can also buy from Whole Foods—be sure to look for the Whole Trade marker! 

If she’s a coffee or tea drinker, we have the stores for you. A 2nd Cup is more than a cafe—it fights human trafficking by raising awareness and providing resources to survivors. Their storefront is closed for the time being, but their online shop is still open! In addition to getting coffee and tea, you could also surprise her with a flavor syrup for her daily drink, or a coffee accessory! Numi is also a great vendor for Fair Trade, sustainable organic teas.  

Whether she’s near or far away, you can still show the maternal figures in your life that you care. This Mother’s Day may be very different—but the love we have for the moms around us is never going to change.  

A Letter to Survivors

A Letter to Survivors

A Survivor Is

A person who continues to function or prosper despite opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

person who is able to continue living his or her life successfully despite experiencing difficulties.

A survivor –beats the odds, has courage and strength, and is a true inspiration.

A survivor is … YOU.

To any Human Trafficking Survivor, to any Domestic Violence Survivor, to any Addiction Survivor, to anyone struggling to find their way, and to anyone who has felt like things would never get better, this is for you.

Dear Survivor,

You are important. You are intelligent. And what you bring to the world is impactful.

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Your purpose has always been bigger than your pain. You have had moments that you have overcome that many don’t know about.  Yet, you are still standing.

Your presence on this earth is meaningful. Your life lessons are meant to be shared with someone else who may have dealt with or are dealing with something you once did. You are the center of your own universe.

You are in control of your choices.

You have the most control over your own fate, destiny, and mood – which make up your thoughts, beliefs and actions. You decide how your life will be spent, and that is why you are important.

Your life matters. Your thoughts and actions can change people’s lives. You are valuable, you have purpose, and most importantly, you are a survivor.

Our world can be so negative, and people who are not empowering or happy with themselves may try to tear you down. Don’t allow it.

You are on a road to making your life the way you want it to be and even better. Remain on this road. Be happy on this road. Allow yourself the pleasure of inspiring yourself and others on this road.

I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate you for being the individual that you are. I appreciate you for lifting yourself up when you felt like life was knocking you down.

Life is not easy, and yet, in the middle of a storm, you choose to go out in the rain and do what you need to do in life in order to get things done. I love and appreciate you for that. Always remember that there is nothing wrong with appreciating yourself and putting yourself first.

You are courageous.

You are not afraid to step out on a limb and go for your goals, no matter how difficult it may seem. It takes courage to put yourself out there, showing up day after day in the way that you do, fighting the good fight. You choose courage to brush the dirt off after a knock-down and get right back in there.

You have courage to honor your boundaries and speak to what needs speaking to, courage to not take things personally even when things get heated. It takes courage and resilience to stand strong in yourself knowing and trusting your own path, even when those you care about the most may be headed another way.

Still, when you may be criticized, you are courageous. You know it takes courage to address the things that may be hard and scary.

One thing I want you to remember is to empower yourself.

Self-empowerment is so essential. It’s also liberating because you are taking full responsibility for your life: making your own choices and decisions, and living according to your own personal operating system and values. You are free from the anxiety and fear of living up to the expectations of others, experiencing the joy of being authentically yourself.

Remember all of this, and you will go far. Empowerment is not an arrogant thing. It’s something that should make you feel good inside. If it ever makes you feel any other way, follow your own steps to eliminate that. Understand the growth that you have experienced and what is to come.

Recognize that growing is honorable.

When that happens, it shows that you are pushing yourself to become not just good, but great.

Personal growth is something you achieve consciously. It is a long-term project that never ends yet brings rewards every day. This is the project of building a self. Everyone has a self, which serves as a platform for all the things that happen over a lifetime. Upon this platform you can build a structure of values that become more fulfilling day by day. Growing is a part of life, and while it may be scary, it’s necessary to make it in this world. It’s something that pushes you far beyond places that you ever assumed you would go.

Take time every day to remind yourself of your highest aspirations, the hopes and dreams that make you most human. By nourishing yourself in this way, you are asking your highest self and soul to become part of your daily life.

To finish, I’ll leave you with this quote from Denzel Washington:

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. So, keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work.”

Continue to use your voice. You are a survivor. You are important. You matter.

Au’Vonnie Alexander | Youth Coordinator

Why Do Survivors Need Case Managers?

Why Do Survivors Need Case Managers?

Survivors can focus on healing, rather than maneuvering through logistics.

 

A survivor’s healing plan is extensive and can be confusing. Each person’s process differs. That’s why a trained, professional Case Manager is necessary to build a custom plan to meet their needs: from immediate necessities like food, clothing, and tonight’s shelter to sustained needs like healing from trauma and substance dependency, building life skills, and living independently.

Survivors have accountability to attend every counseling session, job training, and support group they need.

 

Trauma rewires the brain, limiting new information. When a survivor takes the first step in their healing plan, they are overwhelmed by appointments that they were initially excited about.

But it’s nearly impossible to remember their schedule because their brain is still stuck in survival mode. Our Case Manager will ensure that the survivor has the encouragement to make it to every appointment vital to their healing. 

Survivors have a trustworthy professional to help them overcome the barriers of healing.

 

Survivors often trust the person who exploited them – a parent, a friend, a romantic partner, an employer. It takes work to learn how to trust again and time for us to earn it.

Our Case Manager will be a reliable guide, someone survivors don’t need to worry about judging or abandoning them.

With this strong foundation of trust, a survivor can turn to our Case Manager to remove language barriers, to provide a sense of safety, and to even navigate the frustration of small confusions like phone menus.

We care about each person’s entire story, and we want to walk with them the whole way – not just the first step.

 

Thanks to your support, we hired a trained Case Manager.

Thanks to your generous support, we hired Erin Martin, a trained Case Manager with over 12 years experience. She joined our team to work alongside survivors from the day we meet them until full recovery.  We need to make sure survivors don’t fall through the cracks. A survivor who feels isolated today can have a reliable and caring guide because of you.

$50 can provide a month of transportation for survivors to attend therapy, medical appointments, and job interviews.

$100 can supply clothes for job interviews for survivors to become fully independent.

$600 can ensure a month of case management for a survivor to navigate the challenges of healing.

$1,000 can provide the Family Huddle Series for a survivor and their family to learn vital coping skills.

What’s the Key to Long-Term Healing?

What’s the Key to Long-Term Healing?

CORA

Cora’s knee bounced nervously as the phone rang in her ear. It clicked then she heard a soft, “United Against Human Trafficking, this is Briana.”

Cora hesitated—then, “Hi, I’m Cora,” she swallowed hard. “I need help.”

It didn’t take long to realize that repeated sexual assault from countless solicitors meant Cora needed a long-term plan to help her recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. She needed a Case Manager, but we don’t have one.

Briana contacted a partner with a Case Manager, but their caseload was overflowing. They lacked the resources to help Cora, too.

I know how much Cora’s suffering weighs deeply on your heart.

You want to know that victims like Cora receive care, and you want to make sure they live free. We have a solution – one you can make a reality.

I have good news and I have bad news for you.

First, The Good News:

UAHT expanded to a second location in February!

Our new office is home base of our case management for trafficking survivors. Your 2019 donation funded the growth of our survivor support groups and preliminary case-management services!

Now, the bad news:

full-time Our program isn’t fully funded.

Right now, there aren’t enough Case Managers to guide the healing of tens of thousands of trafficking victims in Houston. Too many survivors like Cora have fallen through the cracks because there aren’t enough resources to meet every need.

We’re taking responsibility to make sure that all the survivors we meet get the long-term, comprehensive care they lack.

You – our community – have called on us to fill the gap by hiring a Case Manager to work alongside survivors from the day we meet them until full recovery. But we don’t have the funds to make this happen yet, especially after COVID-19 hit.

 

You helped us get the building, will you help a sex trafficking survivor live free from his abuser’s control – for good?

You’re the key to case management.

We need to make sure survivors don’t fall through the cracks. A survivor who feels isolated today can have a reliable and caring guide because of you.

$50 can provide a month of transportation for survivors to attend therapy, medical appointments, and job interviews.

$100 can supply clothes for job interviews for survivors to become fully independent.

$600 can ensure a month of case management for a survivor to navigate the challenges of healing.

$1,000 can provide the Family Huddle Series for a survivor and their family to learn vital coping skills.

How You Can Fight Human Trafficking From Home

How You Can Fight Human Trafficking From Home

With parks closed this weekend, we thought you may be looking for something to do while you’re stuck inside. Check out these 4 virtual training opportunities and stay tuned to our social media for more to come!

1. A 2-Minute Video to Help Your Kids Navigate Social Media and Video Games Safely
2. An Open Letter of Encouragement to Survivors
3. La Trata De Personas

A Mini Human Trafficking 101 Training in Spanish

4. Human Trafficking Webinar: For the Community

Monday, April 13th | 5:00PM-5:30PM