Door-to-door magazine sales are emerging in rural areas but there’s nothing innocent about it.
Rather the sales represent a new form of labor trafficking happening in Delaware County.
Laura Sutter, works as regional anti-human trafficking coordinator with Delaware’s Salvation Army, where she works with survivors of human trafficking every day. She enjoys helping them overcome the barriers of being able to get back on their feet – from overcoming drug addictions, to understanding how a healthy relationship should work. They have also introduced her to several genres of trafficking.
“My job has taught me that no two trafficking experiences are the same. Each survivor has been victimized in different ways, but all are survivors of human trafficking,” Sutter said.
When people are forced to sell magazines, they visit higher-class neighborhoods and attempt to persuade residents to purchase the product. The sellers pitch the idea that if they sell enough, they can win a prize, including money and fully paid trips.
It’s all a hustle. These would-be entrepreneurs are not only not going to win a prize, they likely are paid little, if any money, for their work. And they often live in squalid conditions.
Traffickers bus their victims to the neighborhoods, then 12-to-14 hours later pick up the group and collect their money.
A not-so-innocent cover shields traffickers from unsuspecting Delaware residents.
“If there were no purchasers of victims, there would be no sellers [traffickers],” said Sutter. “If there are no sellers, there are no victims. The demand [of trafficking lives] needs to end.
“As long as there is a demand, human trafficking will continue. As a community, we need to take action steps towards ending the demand by being aware of the issue and educating others,” Sutter said.
Potential victims are sometimes lured into slave labor by money or the offers of free trips. It can happen anywhere, right under the nose of police and passersby. Typically traffickers approach unsuspecting targets at a bus stop or in a mall.
“Research about these individuals has become more prevalent. This is another way that [trafficking] can be hidden in rural communities … ” Sutter said. “The unfortunate thing about trafficking is that we can’t fit it into a box.”
Sutter had a graduate school internship with the anti-human trafficking program, specifically in Delaware County, where she attended coalition meetings and served clients. This was the kick-start of her advocacy.