"It's really not that hard to buy and sell a human being in the state of Nebraska." Those words from one Omaha woman who was trafficked for a decade. The new NET News documentary, “Sold For Sex: Trafficking In Nebraska,” examines how trafficking happens in the state and what's being done about it. The program premieres tomorrow night at 8 p.m. CT on NET Television. Ben Bohall of NET News talks with producer Mike Tobias about the project.
The new NET News documentary "Sold for Sex: Trafficking in Nebraska" airs Thursday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. CT on NET Television. For more information, as well as additional videos and reporting, visit the project web site: netNebraska.org/soldforsex
BEN BOHALL, NET NEWS: Mike talk about what you covered in this new documentary.
MIKE TOBIAS, NET NEWS SENIOR PRODUCER AND PRODUCER OF “SOLD FOR SEX: TRAFFICKING IN NEBRASKA”: We really covered quite a bit. It's a broad look at how sex trafficking happens in the state and what's being done to fight it. Within this half hour program you're going to hear, for instance, from Anna Brewer, who's a former Omaha-area FBI agent who spent a good portion of her career investigating trafficking. You're going to hear the words of somebody who's in federal prison for trafficking and find out how he did what he did and what he was looking for. You're going to hear from somebody who works with a service agency in Hastings who talks about how this happens in rural areas. You're going to see how Lincoln police investigate the commercial sex industry and trafficking on a regular basis. You'll hear from a survivor, a woman who was trafficked for a number of years. We're going to take a hard look at what's needed and what's lacking for people who've been trafficked and are surviving this.
BOHALL: How much of a problem is this in Nebraska?
TOBIAS: It's a lot more than people would think and what they know. One aspect of the show is some really new research done by a couple of Creighton University researchers who did a deep dive into online advertising, where it's happening, how it's happening, who's involved in the commercial sex trade in Nebraska. One thing that came out of that is about 120 sex workers, people involved in the commercial sex trade, 120 per month in Nebraska are believed to be at a high risk of being trafficked.
BOHALL: Is this more prevalent in urban or rural areas of the state?
TOBIAS: It's a lot more common in the urban areas as you might expect, but it's also a lot more common than you might think in rural areas. Somebody again that we talked to in the Hastings area who works for an agency there in one year saw a dozen trafficking victims come through her office and also dealt with people who were being trafficked up to Nebraska in the Grand Island area for the State Fair. Again that Creighton research provides plenty of indications of activities in small towns throughout the state.
BOHALL: Who do we see as being the most vulnerable to be brought into the world of sex trafficking.
TOBIAS: The experts would tell you runaways, younger people who are unhappy with life situations, the homeless, people dealing with mental health and substance issues. But it can be anyone. A couple of the survivors that we've talked to weren't in any of these categories, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time around the wrong people. Traffickers prey on vulnerabilities. They also have a good understanding of what works in terms of recruiting people into this world.
BOHALL: Talk about the personal accounts of trafficking that are featured in this documentary.
TOBIAS: This program really focuses on one woman, her name's Rachel Pointer. She's from the Omaha area. She was first sold when she was six-years-old and then was sold for about a decade. Her story is stunning. It's something that you wouldn't really expect to happen in Nebraska. We do have a second program that's actually coming in February which is going to focus more on the stories of survivors, their needs and what they'd like other people to know about how this is happening and what can be done.
BOHALL: What resources are available to survivors?
TOBIAS: That's been one of the problems in Nebraska. One expert that testified before the legislature a year or so ago said the “availability of services for victims was bleak.” One complaint is it's a piecemeal system, so if you're working in an agency or in law enforcement and you find somebody who may be to trafficking victim, there hasn't been this one stop shopping entity, you can call this number and immediate can get help. There's also a lack of shelter that's specific for trafficking victims and survivors which is identified as a real need. This is one of the goals, one of the things that the relatively new Nebraska Attorney General's Human Trafficking Task Force is trying to work on, is putting together this umbrella of resources that will be there to not only attack trafficking and traffickers but then help the people who are in this and try to get them out and get them help.
BOHALL: This documentary places a focus on being proactive in the fight against trafficking. What can you tell us about that?
TOBIAS: That's one thing that survivors and those working on this issue would agree on, the fact that there's a lack of awareness that this happens really allows it to happen. Some of the things that we're starting to see that are happening in addition to just awareness activities, student groups, for instance, doing a week of activities on a campus or something like that. You're also seeing a lot more training happening. In the program you'll see hotel workers being trained for what they might be able to recognize in a hotel room that they're cleaning that would give an indication, "Hey, there was trafficking going on here." We're really starting to see a lot more of that happen.