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TRICKED’s Dan Steele Opens Up About Sex Trafficking

There are a number of ways you can take a stand to help end human trafficking. Dan Steele, a sergeant in the Denver Police Department’s vice squad, is taking the fight against trafficking to the streets of Denver, investigating sex trafficking cases and helping trafficking victims to become survivors. He’s currently featured in TRICKED, a documentary film on sex trafficking that’s in the Quad Cinema in New York through December 19. The mtvU Against Our Will Campaign spoke to Dan about his experiences, the issue, and what advice he’d give college students who are interested in the issue.

How did you get involved with TRICKED?

I became involved with TRICKED due to my position at the time as the Supervisor of the Denver Police Vice Team. Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson approached my boss about filming with the Vice Team while we conducted enforcement operations.  While it was intimidating to be filmed, I was happy to collaborate on the process.  People need to hear about trafficking, and my department and I wanted to help Jane and John-Keith get the message out.

What’s the number one thing you wish people knew about sex trafficking?

I really want people to know that human trafficking is going on right here.  In the United States, in your state, in your city. This is not just an international problem.  There are people being exploited through the commercial sex industry in your community right now.  The exploited person may be your neighbor, your sister, your nephew, your peer or your classmate.

How do you talk to your guy friends about sex trafficking?

I don't have any difficulty talking to my male counterparts about anti-sex trafficking work. Once you educate yourself about the problem and see how disgusting and degrading sex trafficking is, there is no excuse for continuing to support the glamorization of pimps through pimp parties, pimp/ho language, pimp costumes, music about pimping, how-to pimp books, etc.

As for going to brothels and paying for sex, let’s not forget that prostitution is illegal. That’s probably a good reason not to participate in it. You don’t want that going on your record. You don’t want to go to jail, to lose your car or pay thousands of dollars in fines.

But beyond that, and most importantly, I think guys need to think about what they are actually buying.  You are buying a person. What do you really know about that person?  Do you know if they are being controlled by a pimp? Do you know if this is something they are doing by their own free will? I won’t suggest that all people in the sex trade are being trafficked, but how can you know which ones are being forced and coerced to work as your personal sex slave? You don’t really know, and you have to think twice and make your friends think twice before participating in this industry. There is nothing cool about buying someone for sex.

What advice would you give college students to support survivors of sex trafficking?

I would encourage everyone to learn about human trafficking and find out what the current issues and concerns are in their areas. Every community is different, so every community will have a different need. Regardless, non-profits are always looking for volunteers, funding and donations, whether it be hygiene items, clothing or food. We also need people to spread the word and get the message out about this issue.