Local expert talks about Sherri Papini case

Grants Pass, Ore., — “Branding is a huge sign of human trafficking.”

Rebecca Bender is a human trafficking expert.

She says until she heard Keith Papini’s statement regarding his wife, Sherri’s condition, she never thought it could be a human trafficking case.

“I think it would have been an abduction potential for self, not self of the victim, self of the perpetrator without an intent to resell her, until I heard about the branding.” said Bender.

Bender says branding is a way the owners know the victim belongs to them, similar to the way a farmer brands its cattle.

It’s a hallmark of trafficking, but it’s not enough to make the motive clear.

There are some aspects of the case that point to something different.

“According to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, 29% of trafficked children have met their exploiter on social media, 33% is someone they know or trust, so a neighbor a family friend or someone pretending to be a boyfriend, and then less then 10% are kidnapped.” said Bender.

Sherri would be in that less than 10 percent.

Bender also says most trafficked women are between the ages of 18 to 24, and usually have no loved ones.

“They probably didn’t know who they were grabbing, sometimes with abductions they are targeting people in foster care, traffickers are targeting victims in foster care, come from bad homes, people who aren’t gonna have anyone looking for them.” said Bender.

That’s clearly not the case with Papini.

Bender says if trafficking was the motive, Papini can thank her friends, family, and the community for the outcome.

NBC5 News Weekend anchor and reporter Nicole Stein was born and raised in Orange County, California. She graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Mass Communications. While at Arizona State, Nicole was a reporter for Cronkite News on Arizona PBS8 and interned for three local radio stations. When she isn’t reporting, Nicole enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as dancing, reading and traveling.

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