Show Them Home: Stop Trafficking

Some of the best child actors are not earning accolades, awards, or stardom for their great talent. Some of the most convincing scenes take place every night across our country. These performances are tragic in every way possible. These children have convinced themselves this “life” is okay and they convince buyers that they enjoy performing sex acts in exchange for money, favors, or basic needs. While we traditionally think of human trafficking as people kidnapped and chained against their will, that is not the most common occurrence (although it does happen).

The dark underground world of sex trafficking involves deep psychological manipulation and abuse. Young girls, often 11-14, are “groomed” by their captor to “choose” to go with him and become a member of his “stable” (the name of the group of girls owned by a pimp). This grooming can take place over weeks, months, and even years. The man takes an interest in the young girl and begins convincing her that he loves her. He buys her gifts and promises a world where he will care and provide for her. The girls targeted have low self-esteem, come from abusive homes, or are troubled in other ways. These vulnerable girls, tricked into believing their trafficker/pimp actually loves and cares for them, spiral into a world of sexual exploitation beyond belief for the average individual.

These traffickers then use force, fraud, or coercion to enslave these girls that trust them. They use everything from threats of violence toward their families to physical, verbal, and sexual abuse to establish control. The girls may be gang raped and subjected to pornographic photo shoots (providing blackmail material) to de-sensitize them to sexual activity prior to victimizing them into prostitution. This creates a trauma bond that continues to strengthen the longer they remain in that world. Once the trafficker has secured his place as the provider, guardian and “daddy” (while girls keep control of his stable, a lot of the abuse comes at the hands of the buyers). Often girls are sodomized, beaten, subject to gang rapes and even made to lick up human feces so these men (and sometimes women) can fulfil their own twisted lusts.

“Victims of domestic minor sex trafficking can be found in every city, town, and community in our country. “It’s happening here (in WNC) and is more subtle than what is portrayed in the media.” ~Sarah M, OUR VOICE
This world is “home” to thousands of young girls and women across the country. Traffickers may also be family members, friends, or significant others who pimp out their women and sometimes their own children. In WNC, this is a common form of trafficking that authorities and service organizations encounter. In 2015 in Eden, NC, a 52-year-old woman was charged with 12 counts of felony child abuse for prostituting her two teenage daughters to a 66-year-old man. This dark world remains hidden to most of our population, but according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states with the highest number of reported human trafficking cases. Since 2007, the hotline has received 3,225 calls regarding trafficking in NC, with 754 confirmed human trafficking cases. In 2016, there were 181 human trafficking cases (up from 110 in 2015) with 130 of those sex trafficking. The numbers in North Carolina are rising.

There are several organizations – civic, secular, and faith-based – making a concerted effort to stop human trafficking in our region. There are legislative efforts on the national and state level to address this issue. Senate Bill 548 recently passed the NC state senate. It helps women access the resources needed to escape this life. The bill covers several areas, but one of the most helpful pieces provides funding to get the trafficking hotline number posted in NC rest areas along the interstates. Terry Van Duyn worked diligently to help pass the bill.

NC also funds Project NO REST statewide to increase awareness and prevention around human trafficking and its effects on children and young people. The goal is “to shine a light into the shadow that is human trafficking and reduce the number of youth trafficked while improving the lives of those affected by trafficking. By partnering with state and local government agencies, organizations and stakeholders, Project No Rest has developed a comprehensive plan to address human trafficking in North Carolina.” To learn more, check out their website at www.projectnorest.org.

“Sex trafficking is not what you think it is – educate yourself on what it is – it’s more intricate and complicated than what people think.” ~Katrina A. OUR VOICE
Louise Glickman, a founding member of Women for Women, a CFWNC (Community Foundation of Western North Carolina) initiative, helps spearhead efforts to fight human trafficking in our area. Women for Women is just one of the local organizations addressing this issue. The educational event they held triggered Senator Van Duyn’s involvement. She reveals, “I was largely unaware that people were being exploited for sex and for labor right here in North Carolina until I went to a presentation hosted by Women for Women. I am so grateful to them, and for groups like the North Carolina Council for Women, for educating the rest of us. The more people are aware of the problem, the more victims will feel empowered to get the help they need.”

Women for Women provided the grant funding for Our Voice to hire an outreach coordinator, Katrina A., to help educate and inform the community, develop an action plan, and provide services for survivors. Katrina works diligently as the Project WEST NC Coordinator and provides workshops and seminars to organizations, educating them on human trafficking. She is currently forming a task force of first responders, faith leaders, and local citizens to strategize on ways to combat this growing problem. If interested in serving on this task force or having her speak at your organization, please contact Our Voice at 828-252-0562.

Tracking statistics on human trafficking remains very difficult. Organizations such as Polaris, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center are keeping track of their cases; however, reported cases are just a fraction of actual trafficked individuals. Other organizations go beyond just reported cases and use a set criteria to identify and project potential sex trafficking cases. One of those regional organizations in Western North Carolina is Life 107 Ministries. Through a collaborative effort between Life 107 Ministries and a specialist in human trafficking at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), criteria were developed to identify potential minors in online advertising. They studied 12 US Cities, including the Asheville area.

During one three-month period they identified 58 possible cases that met criteria for and were flagged as potential minors being trafficked in or through the Asheville area. There were 15 geographic areas and 28 specific towns in WNC found to be advertising potentially trafficked individuals in online ads. Life 107 Ministries also offers community educational programming on human trafficking and operates an outreach call center that provides referrals for services and other assistance to sex trafficking survivors in US cities. For individuals, organizations, and churches desiring to be involved in the fight against human trafficking from a faith-based perspective, or for ways to support Life 107 Ministries, go to www.Life107ministries.org to learn more.

Special thanks to Louise Glickman and Katherine James of Women for Women; Angelica Reza Wind, Executive Director of OUR VOICE; Sarah M. and Katrina A. of OUR VOICE; Kathy Kania, Executive Director of Life 107 Ministries and Terry Van Duyn, NC State Senator

“The more people are aware of the problem, the more victims will feel empowered to get the help they need.” ~NC State Senator Terry Van Duyn
During one three-month period they identified 58 possible cases that met criteria for and were flagged as potential minors being trafficked in or through the Asheville area. There were 15 geographic areas and 28 specific towns in WNC found to be advertising potentially trafficked individuals in online ads. Life 107 Ministries also offers community educational programming on human trafficking and operates an outreach call center that provides referrals for services and other assistance to sex trafficking survivors in US cities. For individuals, organizations, and churches desiring to be involved in the fight against human trafficking from a faith-based perspective, or for ways to support Life 107 Ministries, go to www.Life107ministries.org to learn more.


Special thanks to Louise Glickman and Katherine James of Women for Women; Angelica Reza Wind, Executive Director of OUR VOICE; Sarah M. and Katrina A. of OUR VOICE; Kathy Kania, Executive Director of Life 107 Ministries and Terry Van Duyn, NC State Senator

Ways To Help

Being aware of the situation fights only half the battle; we need to reach out and help; we must try and show these women and girls what home really means. Here are several ways to help.

1- Join, Donate or Volunteer at an organization fighting this issue: Women for Women; Life 107 Ministries and Our Voice are the ones referenced in this article.

2- Ask for training on identification signs for your business, organization or community event.

3- Save the Crisis Hotline number in your phone, 1-888-373-7888, to refer suspected cases.

4- If you own a business – put posters up with the crisis hotline number in your bathrooms.

5- Host a backpack building party. These backpacks are given to women who seek help and are crucial to fulfill some basic needs immediately.

6- Donate gift cards for gas and/or fast food to local organizations.

7- Attend community awareness events hosted by Project NoRest, OUR VOICE, Life 107 Ministries, or other organizations in the area.

8- Educate yourself on the issue. Some reliable sites are: projectnorest.org; ourvoicenc.org; mtncac.org; polarisproject.org.

9- Write thank you and appreciation notes to those fighting this issue, especially our elected officials such as Senator Terry Van Duyn – votevanduyn.com

10- Spread the word about this growing problem – tell people about it to increase awareness.

Human Trafficking Red Flags:

CHILDREN
History of running away or getting kicked out 4 or more times

History of sexual abuse

Incident or history of inappropriate sexual behaviors

No personal items or possessions (including identifying
document, if foreign born)

Not allowed or unable to speak for themselves and may be
extremely fearful

Appears to have material items they cannot afford (cell phones,
expensive clothing, tablets, etc.)

No knowledge about the community they are in – can’t tell you
their address, what state/town/city they are in, can’t give you
street names

Show signs of being groomed (hair/nails done, new clothing,
things minor cannot afford or justify how paid for)

Associates/has relationship with age-inappropriate friends and
intimate partners

Inappropriate, sexually suggestive activity on social media or chat
apps

Known to associate with confirmed or suspected sexually
exploited youth

Recovered from runaway episode in a hotel or known area of
prostitution

Suspicious tattoos or other signs of branding (specific names,
dollar signs, diamonds, stars, etc. May also have certain designs/
logos on nails, cigarette burns)

Report of human trafficking and/or sexual abuse or trauma
reported by parent/guardian, law enforcement, medical or
service provider, teacher, etc.)

Dari Mullins
Written by Dari Mullins