ALEXANDRIA, Va. – “There’s this guy—he drives a nice car and always has lots of girls with him, the youngest I’ve seen is probably 12—he comes into our store all the time. Says he’s a record producer, but the way he acts makes it seem like something else is going on,” Kaylee divulged after her company’s safety meeting, which incorporated Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) training. “We get lots of customers that come in every day, but he stands out. I didn’t realize it could be human trafficking or know how to respond until this training.”
Longer hours of operation, public restrooms and ease of access increase the likelihood that convenience stores can help victims of human trafficking. Armed with CSAT training on indicators of human trafficking and how to safely report it, convenience stores can become everyday heroes in this fight.
CSAT, a program of the national nonprofit In Our Backyard, empowers the convenience store industry to play a vital role in stopping human trafficking in local communities with a no-cost, easy to implement program. In Our Backyard is also among the groups that are mentioned in the NACS reFresh Community Toolkit. CSAT raises public awareness, safely reaches out to victims, and trains convenience store employees to recognize and report trafficking.
“We know our customers, we care about them, and have daily interactions with them. We have always known when something is not right, but now we know the signs of human trafficking and how to safely handle these situations,” said Kent Couch, who owns a c-store in Bend, Ore. “We work hard to keep our store safe and show our community that we care—Convenience Stores Against Trafficking helps us do both.”
Traffickers exhibit excessive control over their victims, and a public bathroom may be the only place that a trafficked individual is left alone. It has been found to be the safest place for a victim to reach out for help for this reason. Posting the National Human Trafficking Hotline in public places is one of the most effective ways to stop human trafficking, according to a 2016 Northeastern University study. CSAT places Freedom Stickers, with the National Human Trafficking hotline and a message of hope for victims, in convenience store restrooms.
“Awareness is critical to stopping human trafficking. All traffickers ask is that we stay silent and they will continue to profit off the sale of innocent children, women and men,” said CSAT program manager Juliana Williams.
To learn more and to bring CSAT to your stores, contact email@example.com. Imagine the progress we could make toward ending this atrocity if all of the convenience stores in America became CSAT heroes!