The occurrence of human trafficking is pervasive throughout the United States and is often inadvertently perpetuated by public transit systems as traffickers utilize transit to recruit and transport victims. The Missouri Public Transit Association (MPTA) hosted a panel discussion with The Covering House discussing how the transit industry can play a key role in the prevention of human trafficking.
Panelists included Executive Director Sherrita Allen, MA, LPC, and Jessica Wilkins, LMSW, Administrator of Community Based Services with The Covering House. The Covering House is a non-profit organization that provides refuge and restoration services for sexually exploited children and teenagers using the least restrictive environment.
More about the presenters:
Sherrita Allen, MA, LPC is the Executive Director at The Covering House. She received her Master’s in Counseling from Webster University in St. Louis, MO. She has over 24 years of experience working in social services. She has a wealth of experience ranging from direct care in residential facilities, foster care case management, and individual, group, and family therapy. She has trained and educated other professionals through professional development courses at Washington University, Webster University and other social service agencies. She serves as a collaborative partner with the Missouri Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE). Sherrita provided consultation and training with Missouri Children’s Division in sex trafficking victim response training and in Missouri and Illinois in needs assessment and strategic planning related to sex trafficking. Mrs. Allen’s work has an emphasis on treating traumatized children, adolescents and families who have been exposed to various types of trauma and sexual maladaptive behaviors. She has been exclusively counseling survivors of sex trafficking since 2014.
Jessica Wilkins, LMSW currently serves as the Administrator of Community Based Services at The Covering House, where she is tasked with building, implementing, and overseeing programs to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children and reducing the risk of kids falling into trafficking through community engagement. She has provided education and general knowledge of commercial sexual exploitation to students, parents, and staff all over Missouri and even Pensacola, FL. Jessica holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work and has used her knowledge to serve the St. Louis area and beyond for the last 8 years.
Red flags to look for:
- Watch for “red flags”
- Victim is not allowed to speak for themself
- Appears helpless, shamed, and/or nervous
- Avoids eye contact
- Signs of physical abuse (Bruises, black eyes, burns, cuts, broken bones and/or teeth, and/or multiple scars)
- A young personal suddenly has clothes/items they can’t afford and are fascinated with top of the line designer items
- Extravagant appearance
- Demonstrating “grooming” behaviors
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- New Tattoo
What to do if you suspect trafficking?
- DO NOT APPROACH!
- National Human Trafficking Hotline
1 (888) 373-7888
233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
- AG Human Trafficking Task Force 1-844-487-0492
- Contact the St. Louis City Human Trafficking Unit – 314-231-1212
- Contact the St. Louis County Human Trafficking Task Force -314-615-8618, email@example.com