Fighting the good fight against human trafficking
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Monday, January 22, 2018
Human trafficking could be happening anywhere, Pam Strickland said, so we all should be on the lookout.
Strickland, founder of Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking and a nationally known crusader against modern-day slavery, said the reason why is money: It is big business nationally and globally.
“It's a business, so you're looking at two things: supply and demand,” said Strickland, whose organization is reminding people that January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“Human trafficking is exploitation,” she said. “It's when one person controls another person for the purpose of exploiting him or her. Something of value must be exchanged.”
Strickland was a typical working mother who knew very little about human trafficking until she attended a conference in 2006. She said her eyes were opened and she felt compelled to act.
“I went to a missions conference where the speaker showed footage from a rescue that his group had done at a brothel in Asia,” Strickland said. “And it had all these very young girls, and I just thought to myself, it's 2006 and we have people who are selling their little girls in these brothels and we have adult men who are paying to rape these little girls.”
“I felt called to do something about it,” Strickland said.
In 2010, ENC Stop Human Trafficking was born.
“A huge part of what we do is education,” Strickland said. “We raise awareness about human trafficking through going to churches, civic groups and community events.”
Strickland's organization also provides professional training for social workers, law enforcement, teachers and counselors, hotel workers, and people in the community who might actually encounter a victim.
The website Dosomething.org says trafficking involves exploitation in many forms including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.
According to the U.S. State Department, an estimated 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. 80 percent are women and 50 percent are children.
Traffickers go after those who are are vulnerable, Strickland said.
“We look at our homeless population, specifically minors who've run away from home,” she said. “Members of our LGBTQ community are also extremely vulnerable and they are much more likely to be homeless as a result of separation from their family.”
Social media is also playing a pivotal role.
“There are so many cases where kids are recruited and groomed on the internet. These traffickers are patient and will communicate for months with the potential victim to really build up that trust,” Strickland said.
“Obviously people who are estranged from their family are looking for someone to fill in that gap. Traffickers will go after somebody who doesnt have a father figure in the house.”
Strickland continued, “When victims encounter someone who offers stability and love, and a real relationship, they really grasp at that.”
In eastern North Carolina, human trafficking happens, but it can be hard to find.
“There is labor trafficking going on all over Pitt County but it's very hard to find and nobody is looking for it.” Strickland said.
“Law enforcement discovered a brothel in a trailer park and said that security cameras were all around it,” she said.
Being aware of your surroundings is critical in reporting human trafficking. Signs could be anywhere, event in a hotel or in a restaurant.
“If people waiting on you are anxious or nervous, wont look you in the eye, or if they are paticularly anxious when the boss is around, those can be red flags,” Strickland said.
Another thing to look for is suspicious activity.
“If you see security that seems inappropriate for a business or for a home, or if people are coming and going into old and abandoned buildings, that could be a red flag as well, She said. “Law enforcement would rather you call than not call.”
You can also report suspected cases of human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888
“People think it's an international issue but it's happening right here in Eastern North Carolina,” Strickland said.
To learn more about ENC Stop Human Trafficking or to volunteer, visit www.encstophumantrafficking.org
Contact Tyler Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9566.