Human trafficking in Baton Rouge

POSTED: Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 10:30pm

UPDATED: Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 2:03pm

Millions of people all over the world have fallen victim to modern-day slavery. Human trafficking isn't a problem that's just happening overseas. It's happening in our own backyard.  

Human trafficking is defined as tricking, blackmailing, or threatening someone into forced labor or sexual acts for money, generating $32 billion worldwide every year. Approximately 27 million people all over the world are victims of human trafficking. Many of those victims are found in Baton Rouge. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Baton Rouge ranks in the top ten cities in the country for human trafficking. 

A few years ago, human trafficking wasn't even on Lee and Laura Domingue's radar. 

"Back then, there was nothing in the media, no movies," Laura says. "There may have been something out there, but we just weren't aware of it." 

Then, the Domingue's friends invited them to Greece to see the problem firsthand. 

" It was unbelievably horrifying," Laura says. "It just shocked me." 

"You walked down major streets and there's brothels all along the streets," adds her husband, Lee. 

When they found out that it was happening here in Baton Rouge, the couple had to act. 

"When you see it, you gotta do something about it," Lee explains. "Any sane person who has visibility also has responsibility. We can't allow this to happen. It just freaks me out as a father. That's somebody's daughter out there who has to go through that." 

So, he and Laura started Trafficking Hope in 2007, a non-profit organization to educate and raise awareness on human trafficking. 

"We really have a chance to make a statement in the United States, in Louisiana, that this is really not the place that you want to come if you're going to conduct this type of criminal activity," Lee says. 

Natalie LaBorde found that same calling during her time abroad. 

"I met an 11-year-old who, at the time that they rescued her out of a brothel, she was pregnant," Natalie says. 

When she got back to Baton Rouge, she co-founded Tigers Against Trafficking with two of her closest friends. 

"The university systems are really the hub of change," Natalie explains. "It's where the future leaders of tomorrow are in every segment of society. If you can plant a seed in them right now, who knows what they will do in five, ten years from now in terms of fighting human trafficking and ending it." 

The organization works to reach victims in small ways, making a big impact. 

"Where are the places that she is alone?" Natalie asks. "There's not many. Gas station bathrooms, hotel bathrooms, motel bathrooms. You've got to be creative. You've got to think where are the places I can find her." 

Tigers Against Trafficking and Trafficking Hope collaborate with the Human Trafficking Task Force for the Middle District of Louisiana. 

"We're all coming together and in doing that, we're building these relationships because in order to tackle human trafficking, you have to have relationships," Katherine Green says. She's in charge of the task force. 

The task force is made up of a diverse group of people with a single goal. 

 "It's happening right here in the United States," she says. "We're a demand country which means we want the product which is people." 

Their whole mission is reduce the number of people who fall victim to the demand. Slowly, but surely, they're getting the word out.

"You get a glimpse of what you can do with your life and make it count and you never want to go back," Natalie says. 

All of them are making sure that there's no place in Louisiana for human trafficking. 

"If we could get people in Baton Rouge, in the United States, to open their eyes and see that this is happening here. This is our problem," Laura says. 

If you want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do to help, take a look at some of the websites below. 

Trafficking Hope 

Tigers Against Trafficking

The A21 Campaign  

The Polaris Project 

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