Inspired to Become an Anti-Trafficking Activist

After Nevada state lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have required the national human trafficking hotline number to be posted, residents worked to get it done through local government. “There would be too many people possibly saved by just posting this hotline,” said Barbara Bell. “We couldn’t wait another two years (for another legislative session).”

Bell was introduced to human trafficking by Nevadans for the Common Good, an organization composed of churches, synagogues, mosques, nonprofits and other community institutions that focus on issues such as immigration and child sex trafficking.

In the 2013 legislative session, Nevadans for the Common Good and other organizations and activists rallied behind Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s proposed Assembly Bill 67, which established the crime of sex trafficking of children and adults, made victims eligible for state assistance and allowed them to sue their traffickers. Bell knew she could contribute to the cause by showing up at the hearings in support of the bill. The bill passed and took effect July 1. Other trafficking-centered bills, such as AB338, would have required the posting of a national human trafficking hotline number — 888-373-7888 — in mass transportation areas, such as at bus stops and bus stations. But the bill failed.

Not wanting to wait another two years for the legislative session to hear a similar bill, Bell and other members of her congregation and Nevadans for the Common Good sprung into action. They met with Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who was willing to help. Giunchigliani reached out to McCarran International Airport and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to see if they would be able to assist in getting signs posted with the hotline.

“I think signs do two things,” she said. “They tell victims where to call, giving them the tools they need, but (the signs) also educate the general public.” The airport, buses and bus stops were equipped with posters featuring the hotline and information and tips for identifying human trafficking.

The signs are just the start. A new initiative aimed at educating the public about human trafficking in Southern Nevada includes billboards around Las Vegas bearing the hotline number, and the effort is expected to be featured on major roadways for 15 weeks.

Bell hopes to be back at the next legislative session rallying behind any bills that would help trafficking victims. “We still need to get more awareness to people,” she said. She thinks the next battle is to obtain funding to open a safe house for victims, which doesn’t exist in Nevada, she said.

Learn more at Michael Lyle’s Las Vegas Review-Journal article: Stories of human trafficking turn valley woman into activist.

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