This is a guest post from Chris Hnin, of Tufts University, who went out as part of a group to talk to hotel and motel owners in Boston about how to identify and report child sex trafficking.
“Hi, would you like to hear about how you can help fight sex trafficking in your hotel?”
It was quite the perfect morning; the sun painted the sky clear blue and Boston was waking up to a beautiful Saturday. It was the day of an outreach effort to hotels and motels for us here at Love146 Tufts Chapter. In groups of no more than four, we headed to Downtown Boston, Alewife, and Fenway.
Prior to this date, we had put together a hospitality packet and some posters from Love146 to be distributed to each hotel and motel. In this neatly bound folder, you could find essential guidelines and hotlines for hospitality professionals – answering questions like: How do you identify potential trafficking activity? How can you provide aid? What are the available resources?
We then generated a list of hotels with two or three stars on Yelp.com and contacted them in advance.
As we made our way to the hotels we had successfully contacted before this date, our little box of folders and posters became lighter and lighter. And so did the weight of our initial worries.
We had been wary about how these hotels would respond to a bunch of college students. Would they take us seriously? Would they be apprehensive about our intents? Much to our relief, the managers and staff we met with were mostly receptive, and gave us the confidence that they were on our side.
There was an instance where a manager shared enthusiasm and knowledge about anti-trafficking efforts. It was encouraging to hear that the hotel already includes some abolitionist education in their staff training. The manager further assures us that he was aware of the same hotlines.
This was a great morale-boost for the team, and what we took away was the importance of increased efforts in upper management to actually integrate anti-trafficking education in its training curriculum.
While most of us had pleasant experiences, my friend Kenia recounts a particularly interesting interaction. According to Kenia, a manager at one of the more inexpensive hotels reacted quite adamantly to her explanations of the material, insisting that it was in the better and more luxurious hotels that the sex trade flourished. Though a bold (and ungrounded) claim, it definitely made us wonder whether our efforts were directed correctly at the lower-tier hotels.
Perhaps this manager knew better; perhaps the sex trade was immune to the differing standards of hotels.
We ended the day with a high. Knowing that we had brought attention to the issue to hospitality staff in the hotels we visited was a rewarding experience for all of us. Knowing that this attention – even if for a moment, even if for a day – could translate to further actions is what gives us hope and keeps us going.
Moving forward, what we think will be even more effective is to consider targeting outreach to hospitality executives in the Greater Boston area; to pass a kind reminder that they are the people who are more able to make or break an environment that welcomes the sex trade.