MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WKRG) — A new campaign is being launched in Alabama to prevent human traffickers from targeting those with intellectual disabilities. 

The Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities is continuing an educational campaign that works to reduce the risk of human trafficking among those with intellectual disabilities. The campaign includes educational videos, factsheets and websites that highlight several types of exploitation, including grooming and youth sexual exploitation. 

Children with intellectual disabilities are twice as likely to suffer from victimization than those without. People with disabilities are four to ten times more likely to be exploited than those without disabilities, according to a news release from ACDD.

So, what can you do to help? Turns out, education is key

There are a couple of things that residents can do to prevent human trafficking for those with intellectual disabilities. For Darrlye Powell, executive director for the ACDD, education is key.

“Persons with intellectual disabilities have been a target population for traffickers due to their vulnerabilities,” said Powell. “This educational campaign can help prevent them from becoming a victim.”

Understand why those with intellectual disabilities are vunerable to human trafficking

In many exploitation cases, the abuser is also the caretaker, or the abuser has developed a relationship with the victim through grooming. In both instances, the victim may be physically or emotionally dependent on the abuser, making it incredibly hard to escape human trafficking situations.

The educational campaign provides an in-depth fact sheet that explains why those with intellectual disabilities become targets for traffickers. To view the full list, click here and scroll down to “Download our Fact Sheet” under the digital safety tab.

‘Recognize the signs’ of exploitation and human trafficking

A couple of common signs of exploitation and trafficking are:

  • Malnutrition
  • Poor physical/dental health or signs of abuse
  • Avoids eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures
  • Fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive
  • Has a controlling parent, guardian, caregiver, or romantic partner who will not allow them to meet or speak with anyone alone or who monitors their movements and communications
  • Adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction

For a complete list of signs that point towards exploitation, click the link here and scroll down to “Recognize the Signs.”

Teaching online safety

Social media in particular, was extensively covered in two of the five educational videos. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking is a concern for those working to prevent intellectually disabled people from becoming targets of predators.

Last November, a Pensacola man was arrested after he used Facebook to try lure a 16-year-old girl for sex. Just in January, a Wilmer man and Enterprise man were arrested for distributing child pornography on the internet.

The internet has become a useful tool for predators to develop relationships with those who have intellectual disabilities. Victims may be coerced, intimidated or guilted into sending sexually explicit pictures. They may even be persuaded to meet in-person, which could result in rape or sexual exploitation.

To view the educational videos that discuss online safety, click here.