A truck driver who saw a suspicious RV with black curtains wound up saving a young sex trafficking victim, and now, he’s helping others look for the signs.
Truck driver Kevin Kimmel accidentally came upon a sex trafficking victim as he pulled into a gas station in Virginia.
He noticed an RV in the parking lot and sensed that something was off.
“The thing that stuck out was that this was an old RV with black curtains which wasn’t very family-ish,” Kimmel recalled.
Minutes later a man knocked on the door of the RV and entered. The RV then began moving back and forth, and Kimmel said he saw a “minor female” inside.
He called the local sheriff’s office. When police arrived they arrested a man and a woman and were seen assisting “a female in really bad shape.”
Months later, Kimmel learned from a news broadcast that the woman was a 20-year-old sex trafficking victim. She had been held against her will and forced into prostitution. She was also tortured by her captors.
Laura Sorenson and Aldair Hodza — who had lured the woman away from her home in Iowa — were sentenced to 40 and 42 years respectively. They had been selling her at truck stops to men who responded to ads on the internet. In court it was revealed that they had tortured the victim by burning her with metal instruments and driving nails into her feet.
“[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people. They stay in the darkness,” Kimmel said. “That’s why they can’t be anywhere too long. 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.”
“”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 their choice,” he added. “We need to inform truckers about what’s really going on.”
Other truckers are now being enlisted to help the government fight sex trafficking.
In the Texas legislature, a bill was recently introduced that would make it mandatory for people to take a human trafficking awareness course before obtaining a commercial vehicle license, according to CNN.
Kansas and Arkansas are considering similar legislation, while Ohio already has such a law in place.
Kendis Paris of the charity Truckers Against Trafficking explained that truckers have an important role to play since pimps oftentimes sell their victims at truck stops.
“At any given time in the United States there are more truckers out on the road than there are law enforcement officers,” Paris told CNN, adding that she plans to form “a transient army, a mobile army that can report these situations instead of having them take place under their noses.”
The first step is educating them. Hence the laws being considered in various states.
“A lot of guys are not sure if they’re really looking at prostitution or trafficking and they just need to be helped,” Paris said.
But while enlisting truckers to help is important, experts say there is much more to be done.
“Law enforcement needs to be trained. Prosecutors need to make human trafficking cases a priority and actually prosecute these guys to the fullest extent of the law,” Paris said, adding, “Our legislation needs to be stronger so that these guys don’t just get a slap on the wrist and get right back out there … and not just the traffickers but the buyers as well.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of more than 22,000 sex trafficking cases in the U.S. since 2007, according to the Polaris Project. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are roughly 4.5 million people being trafficked as sex slaves around the world.