Sisters of Mercy aim to curb human trafficking, even on vacation

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Sister of Mercy Paulanne Diebold

Sister of Mercy Paulanne Diebold

Sister of Mercy Paulanne Diebold believes that everyone can help victims of human trafficking, even tourists on vacation.

Over the summer, she and a friend, Sister of Mercy Justina Heneghan, traveled across half the country — from Louisville to Yellowstone National Park — and did their part to help potential victims along the way. At each of the 11 hotels and lodges where they stayed, the pair spoke to the managers about how to spot victims.

“We gave them a checklist of things to look for,” said Sister Diebold, noting that she downloaded the information from the internet. “I identified myself as a Sister of Mercy and would say, ‘I don’t know how aware you are of the sex trafficking problem, but it’s here big time.’ ”

She related these highlights of her trip while waiting for Cindy McCain to speak at Assumption High School on Sept. 16. McCain spoke to Assumption’s student body about human trafficking.

Sister Diebold said it’s common for traffickers to take their victims from one hotel to the next. She believes housekeepers and other staff are in a unique position to identify these victims.

She said she told the managers about one young girl, in particular, who was rescued by an observant hotel housekeeper.

While most of the managers listened politely, she said, the female managers seemed to take a particular interest. Only one person, a young man, dismissed it. In his naivety, Sister Diebold said, he felt it couldn’t happen at his hotel.

She firmly believes, hotels can help rescue victims.

“If they don’t get this information, they could be totally blind to the situation,” Sister Diebold said.

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