IDAHO — Each year, Shared Hope International, an organization fighting human trafficking through legislation, policy change, and education, analyzes each state's human trafficking efforts, and in this year's report card, Idaho received an "F".
"I wasn’t surprised I actually assumed we would receive an F," Jennifer Zielinski, Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalitions Executive Director said.
The past two years Idaho received a "C" because of the two laws passed in 2019.
"One was the Safe Harbor Provision for minor victims for human trafficking that would allow for a diversion, and then the other one was actually defining human trafficking in Idaho code," Zielinski said. "Prior to 2019, we didn’t even have a definition as a state so that created the inability to make solo arrests without it being a secondary crime."
But, fast-forward two years since those laws were passed and Zielinski said that this "F" shows just how far behind Idaho is in its efforts despite having a record number of victims reaching out for help.
"We were able to report on direct victim assistance to 401 victims or survivors, and we received 1,229 crisis hotline calls that we were able to directly assist with," Zielinski said. "That included emotional and safety support services, providing shelter and housing assistance, and providing direct referrals. We have been busier than we expected.”
In the report card, Idaho received 28 points and was graded on six issues ranging from the availability of tools for victims to criminal provisions. But, Zielinski said that where Idaho is lacking the most and where it received a score of zero is in prevention and training.
"Without the enforcing of real true training and education for state agencies and local agencies such as law enforcement, the department of corrections, child welfare, and even funneling into our school systems, we leave it up to those districts or jurisdictions to take it upon themselves," Zielinski said. "It has not become a state priority."
With a lack of education and training then she said that there's a lack of understanding of what human trafficking is and the ability for others to identify it.
"In the report card, if you read we don’t even have a mandate for the appropriate tools for identifying victims," Zielinski said. "So none of our state agencies or systems or our programs have an identifying assessment tool to even recognize that there may be a victim or a survivor of human trafficking, which also prevents any of these programs or systems to prevent it from happening because we are not identifying it."
She said that the change has to start from the top down with policy and law changes, something her coalition is currently working towards.
"Until we really start looking at allocating funds to go directly to state agencies, nonprofits, organizations like ours that are on the frontlines, allocating funds to support the effort then it will be a trickle effect," Zielinski said. "We are going to continue to miss hundreds and hundreds of victims or survivors identified as victims of human trafficking, but we are also going to fail at preventing it from happening."
To read more about Idaho's report card, click here.
If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of human trafficking, you can get help or find resources at idahoatc.org.