The only state in the nation with more reported cases of human trafficking than Texas is California, and the majority of cases are not for labor, but sex trafficking.
Mercer says because of the common misconception that human trafficking happens with people coming into America, she was shocked at how many children in our country are trafficked here, within U.S. borders.
“It was better to look at the populations that surround the victims of human trafficking,” she says, “because the victims don’t always see themselves as victims.”
She researched who has access to human trafficking victims and found from the Polaris Project that truck stops are a common place for traffickers to find victims. She went to a truck driver training school and interview truck drivers on how they use their phones for their jobs. Mercer created an app for drivers to report trafficking anonymously.
Mercer says a lot of drivers ask her for signs on how to recognize trafficking and what differences they might notice between trafficking and prostitution. Her advice is to err on the side of caution, especially when it may involve someone who could be underage.
“If you see someone who could potentially be under the age of 18, it would definitely be worth creating an incident report,” she says.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
If you, or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center or your local law enforcement.