SEATTLE — Washington is launching a new anti-human trafficking campaign designed to encourage victims to seek help themselves, a first of its kind.
The effort is part of Human Trafficking Prevention Month and brings cities and elected officials across the state together.
Posters and signs with the words "You Are Not Alone" will be visible in airports, marine ports and other traffic hubs, and they will be translated into several languages.
Surveys of trafficking victims show that 38% traveled by plane at some point during their exploitation and 63% used mass transit, hidden in plain sight.
"Being able to have these posters in places where people move and are transported to is really important," said Rebekah Covington who survived two years of trafficking 17 years ago.
Covington is now the corporate relations manager at the nonprofit Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) as a way to help leaders and businesses learn how to better help victims.
"Trafficking can happen to anyone, it has no bias," said Covington.
Within a matter of days after falling into the wrong crowd during her senior year at Decatur High School and being kicked out of her parent's home, she said she was sex trafficked.
"They manipulate you by almost glorifying what’s happening to you," said Covington.
Covington said the grooming and dependency happen slowly.
Covington said she was arrested for crimes committed while being trafficked, but still never could betray her traffickers.
"You're hearing all these things that if you do get out of this nobody's going to want you, you're never going to be in a relationship, you have a criminal record so now you can't get a job," Covington said.
Covington said she was taken across state lines from Washington to Texas and Nevada but turned away any help due to trust issues.
"I had so many people come up to me and say 'Why are you doing this? I can help you get out.' And I'm like how are you going to help me you don't know me," said Covington.
That's where the new campaign comes in. It takes away the trust issues and puts the power into the hands of the victims.
Part of the new campaign also involves free training for airport employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking, which include a person looking confused, signs of physical abuse or being with someone who appears to have control.
"People that are being exploited, want out but they don't know what the path is and this campaign gives them that path so that they can begin to heal and transition out of this very horrific, horrific industry," said Washington Democratic Rep Tina Orwall.
Orwall is just one official backing the campaign joining Port of Seattle commissioners, King County council members and Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward who turned to survivors like Covington for help in creating it.
"If I saw something like a poster that I had access to an actual organization, I would have felt more comfortable and safe to talk to someone," said Covington.
Covington said shame and guilt can often get in the way of a victim seeking help.
"I would tell them there is hope to live a fulfilling life and you're not alone in this and it's ok to find mentors and not feel ashamed for anything happened," Covington said.