The Business of Meetings – Episode 202 – Voice of the Innocents: Lori Cohen’s Battle Against Child and Human Trafficking
We are honored today to speak with a remarkable individual at the forefront of a child-protection organization.
Lori Cohen is the CEO of PACT (Protect All Children from Trafficking), the leading policy organization in the nation on child sex trafficking. She has been instrumental in driving change and safeguarding the most vulnerable within our society.
PACT shines as a beacon of hope for combating one of the gravest challenges we face today. Join us to gain a deeper understanding of the essential work that PACT is doing.
Lori’s journey into combating human trafficking began unexpectedly during her legal career. Initially focused on public interest work and supporting domestic violence victims, she found herself immersed in an entirely different arena when she began working with immigrant women facing abuse. Their harrowing stories of coercion and exploitation led her to discover that her clients were victims of human trafficking, a reality they often did not even recognize for themselves. That led Lori to delve into the complexities of trafficking and question the failure of the system to identify those cases. Fueled by a deep sense of responsibility, she transitioned from legal advocacy to comprehensive support, creating programs that addressed the needs of trafficking victims beyond legal assistance. Her passion for this cause was ignited by the tangible suffering of individuals seeking help in her office, compelling her to advocate tirelessly for those who could not escape their traumatic pasts.
Joining ECPAT USA and the Evolution to PACT
While representing her clients, Lori turned to ECPAT USA for information about trafficking. ECPAT USA has high-quality materials that helped her understand the complexities of trafficking. Years later, when the founder of ECPAT USA retired, Lori felt indebted to the organization and saw an opportunity to contribute her first-hand knowledge to their cause. The name change from ECPAT USA to PACT (Protect All Children from Trafficking) reflects their evolving mission and dedication to preventing exploitation.
Raising Awareness in the US
Lori explains that trafficking is not just an overseas issue, as it is also prevalent in the United States. She acknowledges that it can be uncomfortable to discuss the topic but stresses the importance of businesses embracing education and training to create safer environments.
Taking Action and Free Online Training
Lori encourages listeners to take advantage of free online training offered by PACT, developed in collaboration with the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Marriott. The training, which aims to educate hotel staff on identifying and preventing trafficking, emphasizes that recognizing red flags and reporting suspicious activities can make a significant impact in protecting vulnerable individuals.
Challenges of Intervention
Untrained civilians should avoid intervening in trafficking situations as they could face the risk of armed traffickers and the unknown presence of others. Lori explains that victims must choose the right time to escape, so she cautions untrained individuals to avoid jeopardizing their safety.
Training and Data Tracking
The training program incorporates anti-cheat measures and pre/post-training surveys to ensure effectiveness. Data tracking on the website includes information on user logins and completion rates.
Practical Signs of Trafficking
Lori highlights the importance of dispelling myths surrounding trafficking. Instead, the focus should be on practical signs, like cash payments, lack of luggage, or inappropriate clothing, to identify potential trafficking situations. She also suggests using hotel video cameras to monitor suspicious activity discreetly.
Testimonials and Awareness
It is often challenging to obtain testimonials from organizations that have successfully identified and intervened in trafficking cases. Brands are reluctant to disclose such incidents because they fear getting singled out. However, efforts are underway to find creative ways to encourage organizations to come forward.
Human Trafficking Heatmap and Polaris
A national anti-trafficking organization called Polaris created a heatmap on which Florida has been a hotspot for sex and labor human trafficking. Lori emphasizes the importance of raising awareness of the prevalence of trafficking within the United States, involving both international and domestic victims.
Lori feels hopeful about the growing partnerships between private sectors and anti-trafficking organizations and is optimistic about the legislative progress in criminalizing sex tourism.
Name: Lori L. Cohen
Title: Chief Executive Officer, Protect All Children from Trafficking (PACT)
Lori Cohen has been serving as CEO of PACT since November 2019. PACT is the leading policy organization on child sex trafficking in the nation, and a member of the ECPAT International network, active in over 100 countries and dedicated to the prevention of child sex trafficking and exploitation.
PACT’s mission is to protect every child’s right to grow up free from sexual exploitation and trafficking through education, outreach, and private-sector engagement. PACT’s work in travel and tourism is renowned and features free, online training to identify and safely report trafficking that has been completed by over 1 million members of the hospitality industry.
Before joining PACT, Ms. Cohen founded a program at a leading domestic violence services organization to offer legal representation and holistic care to thousands of victims of human trafficking and related forms of gender-based violence. Drawing upon her experience in obtaining comprehensive care for her clients and observing ways in which their voices can be engaged to inform effective interventions, Ms. Cohen centers the survivor experience in PACT’s work. She has garnered international recognition for her work with child and adult clients.
Ms. Cohen is a frequent speaker on trafficking-related matters in the United States and abroad and has served on the University of Michigan Law School and Yale University faculty. She is a graduate of Yale Law School.
Connect with Eric Rozenberg
Connect with Lori Cohen
The Toll-Free National Human Trafficking Hotline Number is 888-373-7888