“The whole story of the kidnapping and the people being held in shackles is very much Hollywood. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen sometimes,” Caroline Palmer, the Safe Harbor director for the Minnesota Department of Health, said.
Palmer said human trafficking often looks more like someone in a bad situation than an actual abduction.
“When you talk about human trafficking and sex trafficking around here, you’re talking about young girls coming from an unstable home environment or a nonexistent home environment, chemical dependency, mental health issues,” Olmsted County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Behrns said.
Behrns said often traffickers will target vulnerable people and promise to “take care of them.”
Palmer said human trafficking is a significant issue in Minnesota.
“We know that there are well over 1,200 unique cases involving youth that are being sex trafficked in the state,” Palmer said.
She also said it’s often hard to spot victims of human trafficking.
“They may still be going to school, they may still be involved in community activities. It really can look like so many different things,” Palmer said.
Capt. Behrns had a message to those who may be the victim of human trafficking:
“If we’re talking about you, get out and make a phone call and help will come, alright? This is your chance to do it. And to those that have done that and gotten out: congrats to you. You are some very strong people, and I’m happy for you.”
If you are the victim of human trafficking or sex trafficking or you know someone who may be, call 911 and they will connect you to the appropriate resources.
You can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, send the text HELP to 233733, call the BCA at 1-877-996-6222 or email email@example.com.
While Rivera’s story that human traffickers forced him to hide Tibbetts’ body is not out of the realm of possibility, it would be one of very few cases in the United States of abduction with the intent to traffic.