Discussing Human Trafficking with Sophia Fisher

Image credit: Sophia Fisher

This is an interview I have wanted to do for a long time. Since getting involved with the anti-trafficking movement, I have wanted to speak with someone who is active in fighting human trafficking. As a contributor for Stop The Demand Project, I thought of its founder, Sophia Fisher. Stop The Demand Project is a nonprofit dedicated to fighting and bringing awareness to human trafficking. I sat down to discuss human trafficking with her. Read our interview below! -Hannah (aka Young Patriot Rising)

Question #1: "What led you to get involved in fighting human trafficking?"
Answer: "I learned about human trafficking when I was in high school. I was stunned that this crime happened not only in the United States, but around the globe. That's what really shocked me. That it's so prominent in society. I thought it was only something that happened at the border or in large cities. I realized I had to do something about. It's a very uncomfortable issue to discuss. Change can't be effected if people aren't talking about it or getting involved. I took a training with a nonprofit in my area called Rahab Ministries. They do a lot of work with survivors. This was the first time I really became aware with the issue of human trafficking. That's what got me in the fight. It's what introduced me to the crime. I also had no idea Ohio was one of the top states for reported cases of human trafficking. That really hit home, once I found out that statistic along with others. Since then, I've been a really outspoken advocate about human trafficking and I hope to continue to be."
I mentioned how Florida is the #3 state for highest reported human trafficking cases, and I even shared how I thought I experienced a trafficking case in Tampa at a concert. 

Question #2(a): "Why did you start your organization, Stop The Demand Project?"
Answer: "I started Stop The Demand Project because I saw a lack of attention to resources to combat this issue. I didn't want to start another organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking by providing resources, but instead highlight what is already available. There's no issue with doing the first one. What was on my heart, personally, was seeing all these organizations not get the funding or the volunteers they needed, and I thought 'Why not use social media and a team of people that are passionate about the issue (myself included) to speak up on this issue and bring awareness to these organizations?' What inspired me to start this was the severity of the issue, and wanting to combat it, but realizing there's such a lack of attention to resources. I realized we could be a hub for these resources. 

Question #2(b): "Could you also give an overview of what it is you guys do?"
Answer: "I usually tell people that what SDP does is twofold. First, we are an organization dedicated to raising awareness to stop the demand for human trafficking. Second, we are a hub for resources. We aren't reinventing the wheel. People come to our website to learn about our partners and discover ways they can get involved."

Question #2(c): "How can people get involved in your organization?"
Answer: "If you head over to our website, you'll be given the option to 'Join the fight.' There are a myriad of ways to join. You can apply to become an ambassador. You can look at who our partners are, which I highly recommend you do. Learn about them, and see if you'd like to help them. You can also apply to be a writer. We need a lot of help with providing content to educate others. Becoming an ambassador to provide video content, becoming a writer to produce educational articles, there are opportunities to join our team, or to help other NGOs. There are great resources you can find on our website, so I recommend checking them out."

Question #3: "What is the biggest misconception people may have about human trafficking?"
Answer: "That's a great question. I'd say the biggest misconception people have, and I used to hold these views as well, is that human traffickers are strangers. Think about movies like Taken, where the main character goes out to rescue his daughter and friend after a trafficker kidnaps them. While those crimes exist, and kidnapping is a real thing, it's very rare that a trafficking victim is trafficked by someone they don't know. That myth was the biggest shock to me. That it's not a stranger who does the trafficking, it's someone the victim knows. The one closest to you. Someone familiar, like an employer, significant other, or parental figure. That's what is common in trafficking cases, because it's easier for a trafficker to exploit a vulnerability they know of rather than someone they don't know."

Question #4: "Do you ever get ridicule for wanting to fight human trafficking?"
Answer: "I do get some pushback, and it's not usually because it's a hard fight. Usually what I hear is people pushing me away because they don't want to face the truth of human trafficking. I've had conversations with people online and in-person. Over the summer, I was speaking with a man. We were at an event, and I was telling him about the work I do alongside one of my coworkers. Sarcastically, he said 'Thanks so much for ruining my day.' That showed me a lot at the moment. I had to swallow my pride and ego. I come face-to-face that this is an uncomfortable issue. People will often push me, my organization, or other organizations away that are working to fight this because they don't want to face the reality of human trafficking. I don't think everyone has to be an outspoken advocate, but if you're turning a blind eye to the issue, change will never come. Everyone needs to be involved at some level. No one has ever told me to my face that human trafficking is a good thing. It's usually the pushback of the crime itself or the discussion of it because they know it's a hard issue to discuss, and would rather not have the discussion."
What Sophia then told me, which I will explain at the end, really spoke volumes to me. Human trafficking will never fully be eradicated. However, that should not deter us from making the change we can effect. Burnout can also happen very easily if you aren’t taking care of yourself. It’s important to check in on yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you aren't okay, you won't help anyone.

Question #5: "Why do you think human trafficking is such a politicized issue?"
Answer: "I think a lot of issues are politicized when they shouldn't be. It's typical politics. Things are going to fall on one political side, become weaponized and used for ill intent. There is a lot we can do to push back on that rhetoric. Republicans and Democrats care about this, and let's not make hasty generalizations. This should be a bipartisan issue. I've seen people on both sides of the political aisle care about human trafficking, and I've seen people on both sides be guilty of engaging in human trafficking. I think we need to be careful with how we discuss this issue, and ask ourselves if we are an active part in politicizing this issue. If we are, then we need to fix that. Often, when issues become politicized, it's how we discuss them. I know there can be those on the Right who introduce legislation to fight human trafficking, and there are those on the Left who do the same. I hope to see bipartisan efforts. It's a blatant lie to say only one side cares. Get rid of the politics. Make it a human rights issue. Let's make it about that."

Question #6: "Should more young people get involved in the fight against human trafficking?"
Answer: "Definitely! I think our youth have a really strong voice. What's unique about Generation Z is that a lot of them are on social media, and social media is a tool that can be used for good or evil. When used for good, it can amplify your voice. I encourage those who are passionate about this issue to not only share it within their inner circle, but to use their social media to talk about it. It's a great tool to share your thoughts. The times we are living in are unprecedented with the resources we have in technology. There's a lot we can do to speak about this issue if we work together."

Question #7: "I've heard a lot of people say they don't think we can fight or end human trafficking since it's basically in every part of our life. What would you say to this?"
Answer: "I think that's a pretty cynical worldview. I felt very discouraged last year because I put the expectation on myself to end human trafficking. It's not a bad thing to want to eradicate human trafficking, let me make that clear. But since we live in a broken and fallen world, we have to acknowledge that the crime will never fully be eradicated. That doesn't mean change can't happen. What is change? It can be subjective, but to me, I think to myself 'What is the change I've seen?' The comment on a human trafficking post that says, 'Wow, I never knew that before. Now I do thanks to this post.' A victim of human trafficking getting rescued. That's a win. Those are the things we are doing to fight human trafficking, and what I see many great organizations doing. The crime is going to be pervasive in society, but I don't think we should take the entire burden of wanting to eradicate all of it and just say 'Let's take a hands-on approach. There's nothing we can do to stop it.' Because I'm telling you one life makes all the difference. Having that one person rescued, it's a lifechanger. I'm a firm believer in the ripple effect. If one person reads your article Hannah, and they say 'Oh my goodness. I want to do something to combat this.' Even what you said with your mom now talking about human trafficking, because you decided to talk about it. That's real change and power in that. This crime is heavy and discouraging. But there is a lot of work being done. Instead of dwelling on the things we don’t have control over, let’s focus our resources on what we can control and what we can effect.”"
What Sophia referred to with mentioning my mom is that I told her how, since I've been discussing human trafficking, I noticed my family has begun to mention it when having discussions with their friends/family. Before I got involved in the fight, they rarely mentioned it. Now, they pay attention.

Question #8: "What advice do you have for young people who want to help in the fight against human trafficking, but aren't sure how?"
Answer: "Look into what your area offers. See if there are local nonprofits. If that would be a safehouse or food pantry, you name it. There are a lot of ways to get involved locally. There are a lot of great national organizations, but I really do believe this is an issue that needs to be fought on a local level. Here in Ohio, where I am located, there is a human trafficking taskforce right outside the Governor's office. In every county in Ohio, all 88 counties, our goal is to have a collaborative taskforce that meets every so often to discuss how to fight human trafficking locally. If you don't have that in your area, I'd encourage you to consider starting something like that. It might sound crazy, but it can be done. Start holding weekly meetings with your friends. But I guarantee you can find local organizations to help. You may not find it online, but ask around. Join forces with those who care about fighting human trafficking as well. Look into what is happening in your hometown because the crime happens there. Whether you're in a big city or in a rural town, human trafficking is happening."

I haven't really enjoyed speaking with someone like I did with Sophia. Not to discount any other interview, but the last interview I had with someone that I truly enjoyed was Mahgdalen Rose. Sophia really shared some interesting perspectives throughout our discussion. Like her discussion of the importance of mental health as a fighter against human trafficking, or that you can get second-hand trauma from seeing the dark truths in human trafficking. These stood out to me. I'm glad to have had this discussion.

Thank you all for reading, and thank you to Sophia for allowing me to speak with you! It was definitely a great interview. Follow Stop The Demand Project on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok

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