RAHAB’s Hotel Ministry began in the Spring of 2021. Our staff saw a big need for it in our communities, and so we jumped into action. After meetings with community partners and gathering information, we created a flash drive with information about RAHAB, Human Trafficking 101, and what to look for specifically at hotels and motels.
Our Outreach team visited every hotel and motel in Stark County and gave out these flash drives. We introduced ourselves to the managers and explained that we wanted to be an ally to them for this issue. We always emphasize that we are not trying to get anyone in trouble, but, because of the nature of hotels, trafficking can easily happen there.
Visiting High-Risk Hotels
After visiting each hotel, our Outreach team made a list of ones that seemed to be high-risk for trafficking. These included hotels and motels that had previous trafficking busts and had rent-by-the-hour options. At these locations we gave the managers our RAHAB bracelets and Outreach bags full of essentials to hand out to the women they saw coming and going. We began to go to these hotels frequently.
At these locations, we frequently meet women sitting or standing outside of rooms. These women are seemingly waiting outside for the “johns” their pimp sends to their location.
We talk with the women there and always replenish the hotel/motel’s supply of our bags and bracelets. Some managers are very receptive to us, always asking for more supplies to hand out. They will respond with “I know someone I can give this to” or “I have someone for you to talk to. Let me go get her.” Others seem to push us out the door before we even finish speaking, which, to us, speaks volumes.
There is Always Hope
Despite those encounters, there are managers and employees that we have really connected with. There was one hotel in which the manager knew a woman who was staying there long term. He suspected that she was being trafficked, witnessing many men coming in and out of her room. During our visit he brought her out to us and we got to talk with her in the lobby for 40 minutes and connect her with the Drop-In Center.
We sometimes encounter the same women consistently. They might be at the same location for a long period of time or we’ll find them in a different hotel/motel each week. Regardless, we are always pursuing them, providing them with essentials, and inviting them to the Drop-Ins.
Know the Signs
Knowing the signs and what human trafficking looks like in hotels and motels can be a huge part of combatting this issue.
Traffickers are often portrayed in the media to be older men, but the truth is traffickers will look as diverse as your community does. Traffickers can be any gender or race. They could be a victim’s family member, peer, or boyfriend. Victims will not likely use the term “pimp” or “trafficker,” but they will use terms like “boyfriend” and “friend.”
Victims are often women and girls, but men, boys, and members of the LBGTQ+ community are also vulnerable. Some vulnerabilities include an unstable home, prior sexual abuse, mental health concerns, substance abuse, and language barriers. Victims may appear to be free and in control, yet they are often help captive by an emotional bond to their trafficker.
Signs that are specific to hotels are frequent visits at the hotel and lots of people–typically men–coming in and out of the room.
Filling the Gaps
At RAHAB, we work hard to fill the gaps in services. Hotel Ministry was a gap we saw and have already reached many people through it. Through education and awareness, we can eradicate human trafficking. Remember, there is always hope.