Hotels Respond to Nuns’ Initiative to Raise Awareness
About Sex Trafficking before Super Bowl
Indianapolis — Hotels in the Indianapolis area are better equipped to recognize and help victims of human trafficking thanks to an initiative launched before the February 5 Super Bowl by a group of 11 orders of Catholic women religious in Indiana and Michigan in collaboration with state and local officials and organizations.
The goal of the initiative is to raise awareness about human trafficking, assure that hotel staff receive appropriate training, and distribute educational materials to hotels willing to make them available in lobbies and guest rooms.
Of the 220 hotels that were contacted, 200 hotel managers provided responses to questions asked by members of the religious orders. As a result of these phone calls, seven hotels requested training prior to the Super Bowl to help their employees recognize trafficking situations and how to assist victims. In addition, 99 hotels asked for materials that include:
- brochures about human trafficking for staff and guests;
- copies of the ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking) Code of Conduct developed by the hospitality industry to deter child sexual exploitation; and
- local anti-trafficking contact information, such as a 24-hour victim assistance hotline, safe houses, and police and law enforcement officials.
“We are very gratified by the responses from hotel managers and pleased that they made time to talk and work with us in this very busy season,” said Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Ann Oestreich, co-chair of the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM) which is coordinating the Super Bowl 2012 Anti-Trafficking Initiative. “From the phone calls we also learned that 45 hotels previously had conducted or were planning to conduct human trafficking awareness training for their employees, so they are well along the path of socially responsible business practice.”
The 11 orders of women religious who are members of CCRIM, including the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Ind., have invested in hotel chains to address the issue of human trafficking in the hospitality industry. Since June 2011 they have been collaborating with state and local officials to curb human trafficking during festivities leading up to the Super Bowl. Incidents of human trafficking — or modern-day slavery — tend to spike alongside major sporting events to meet the high demand for commercial sex.
“We may never know how many people may be helped as a result of this initiative,” said Holy Cross Sister Joan Marie Steadman, president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. “If even one person is freed from this kind of slavery or one trained hotel employee recognizes a trafficking situation or one guest knowledgeable about trafficking reports a concern to the front desk, then we are that much closer to ending the exploitation of vulnerable people, particularly women and girls.”
Added Sister Ann, who also is congregation justice coordinator for the Sisters of the Holy Cross, “The positive results from this initiative could only be accomplished by many groups working together against trafficking. We are deeply grateful for the collaboration by all the orders of women religious and their associates, college students and especially the IPATH Task Force that has worked so hard in Indianapolis to raise awareness, provide needed services and coordinate training.”
The Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) Task Force includes representatives from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and other nonprofit organizations.
About 45 sisters and associates from seven orders in Indiana and Michigan made calls to 220 hotels within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis between January 8 and 17. The hotel managers were asked four questions:
- Have employees received training to recognize potential occurrences of human trafficking in their hotels?
- Is there a protocol in place for hotel employees to document and report possible incidences of trafficking?
- Are hotel employees/managers aware of the local groups working to end trafficking?
- Is the hotel willing to make anti-trafficking information available to guests?
After the responses to these questions were compiled, a list of local anti-trafficking contacts, information about training, the ECPAT Code of Conduct, and human trafficking awareness brochures were hand delivered to the hotels by January 30. Ultimately, CCRIM seeks to have area hotels sign on to the ECPAT Code of Conduct.
The U.S. State Department estimates that between 14,500 and 18,000 persons — many of them women and children — are trafficked into the country each year. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported that over 11,800 calls were made to its hotline regarding sex trafficking in 2010, including calls from the state of Indiana.
“Human trafficking” is an umbrella term for activities in which one person obtains or holds another in compelled service through threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability. Forms of human trafficking include the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, and the removal of organs.
Often described as a modern form of slavery, human trafficking occurs across borders or domestically. The United Nations estimates that 700,000 to 4 million women and children are trafficked around the world for purposes of forced prostitution, labor and other forms of exploitation every year. Trafficking is estimated to be a $15.5 billion annual business in the United States alone, according to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
The Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM) is a faith-based investor group comprising 11 orders of Catholic women religious. CCRIM engages in socially responsible investing in collaboration with hundreds of other faith-based investor groups through the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. CCRIM has invested directly in several hotel chains for the purposes of dialoguing with the companies about their ethical responsibilities in the marketplace of profitability. CCRIM members are the Congregation of Saint Joseph; Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters; Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, Huntington, Ind.; Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Donaldson, Ind.; Servants of Jesus; Sisters of Mary Reparatrix; Sisters of Mercy; Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.; Sisters of Saint Francis, Oldenburg, Ind.; Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Ind.; and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Mich.
CCRIM is a member of the broader shareholder coalition, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a pioneer in shareholder advocacy including nearly 300 institutional investors. ICCR members originally focused international attention on the perils of human trafficking at major sporting events during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and again at last year's Super Bowl in Texas, and is currently organizing a global coalition of investors around the upcoming London Olympics.
About ECPAT-USA/Code of Conduct
Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) is a network of organizations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children around the world. ECPAT-USA’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism sets a standard for responsible business practices that effectively deters child sexual exploitation. Those who have signed the Code of Conduct in the hotel industry are Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Millennium Hotel in St. Louis, Mo., and the Carlson Companies, which include chains such as Radisson Hotels and Country Inn and Suites. www.ecpatusa.org
About the Sisters of the Holy Cross
Founded in 1841 in Le Mans, France, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross is an international community of women religious whose generalate is located in Notre Dame, Ind. The congregation numbers approximately 450 members worldwide who serve in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, India, Mexico, Peru, Uganda and the United States. Sisters of the Holy Cross are called to participate in the prophetic mission of Jesus to witness God’s love for all creation. Their ministries focus on providing education and health care services, eradicating material poverty, ending gender discrimination, and promoting just, mutual relationships among people, countries and the entire Earth community.