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Human Trafficking

When you hear the words “human trafficking,” what do you think of? For many Americans, we might think of women and children being physically forced into sex trafficking and being sold and transported across borders. This can happen, but that’s not always the case. There are many misconceptions about what trafficking looks like but trafficking can take many forms. Understanding what human trafficking is can help us spot the signs and support survivors. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

According to the North Carolina Department of Administration, “in 2019, 266 cases of trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, ranking North Carolina 11th among the 50 states in cases reported.” However, it is estimated that the true number of trafficking cases in North Carolina is much higher as trafficking often goes unreported. North Carolina’s highway system, the high demand for cheap labor, and an increase in gang activity all contribute to the increase in trafficking in our state. There are two main types of trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In addition, people can be trafficked through various means, ranging from force to fraud and coercion. Regardless of the type of trafficking, or the means of constraint, trafficking victims deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This is why the director of Ship Community Outreach’s trafficking initiative, Anissa, says she strives to “meet people where they are.” This initiative focuses on serving women being sex trafficked in the Southeast Raleigh area. However, there are many other resources for people experiencing other types of trafficking who may not fit that description.

In many cases, those being trafficked are not ready to accept resources that will allow them to escape trafficking. Anissa takes a “boots on the ground” approach to this initiative. She meets the women where they are, builds relationships with them, and helps meet their immediate needs first. Then, if and when they are ready to take the next steps to build a life outside of trafficking, Ship helps provide the support and resources they need to do so.

So, what are the warning signs of human trafficking, and who is at risk? Ultimately, anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, but there are some communities that are particularly vulnerable. Women, children, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and homeless individuals are some examples of people who may be at higher risk of being trafficked. Some signs to look out for include sudden changes in clothing or behavior, possession of excessive amounts of cash, frequent travel, and unexplained injuries. For youth, signs may also include older significant others and friends groups, declining academic performance, advanced knowledge of sexual behavior, and exhaustion. For businesses, signs may include employees living at the place of business, long hours, low wages, and inappropriate security measures. All of this information and more can be found on the North Carolina Department of Administration website.

If you suspect or have confirmed a situation of trafficking and the victim(s) are not in immediate danger, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

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