By Jody Stewart
The state of Alabama held it’s fifth annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which is meant to educate the public about the signs of trafficking. The LaFayette police department and the Circle of Care for Families” Renew Hope 85 initiative are holding a community forum on Tuesday, December 3rd at 5:30 pm central time at the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church to inform and educate our community on what human trafficking is, where it happens, and what we can do to protect our children.
Human trafficking is the organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited. Human trafficking is called “Modern Day Slavery.” There are more slaves today than at any other time in the history of the world. It is estimated that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. Human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal industry in the world today, second only to the illegal drug trade. However, it is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is only a matter of time until it becomes the largest criminal industry in the world.
A very lucrative business, it is estimated to be approximately a $32 billion industry annually. Some estimates are even higher up to $150 billion per year. That is more than Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL’s earnings combined. Unlike drugs and arms dealing, traffickers can continue to exploit their victims because human beings can be sold over and over again. Human trafficking is not just happening in third world countries anymore. It is happening across the United States, and it is happening in Alabama.
Traffickers gain complete control of their victims through coercion, force, or fraud. While 80% of human trafficking victims are female, males are victims too. The average age of victims taken into sex trafficking is 11-14 years of age and exploitation can continue for years. There are many adult victims, too.
Sex trafficking of children is a brutal form of human trafficking and child sexual abuse. Experts estimate that up to as many as 300,000 children are at risk of being pulled into prostitution each year. Pimps target the vulnerable, such as runaways, homeless youth, or children who have been abused or neglected. Of the estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, about half are children. It is estimated that 2 children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute.
Atlanta is a major hub for human trafficking. The interstates that flow through Atlanta have become corridors of human trafficking, distributing victims and services throughout the Southeast. Locally, I-85, I-20, and I-65 have been identified as major roadways of human trafficking.
Approximately 600 victims were rescued in Alabama during 2017 and fifty percent of those rescued were minors, and it is believed that these numbers represent only about 10% of potential victims.
In order to work to stop human trafficking all of us have to be aware of its existence. We must be able to recognize the signs that someone might be a victim, and properly respond when we spot it. The State of Alabama has a Governor’s Task Force to combat human trafficking. The middle district region is located in Chambers County and has developed a task force.
The Renew Hope Initiative who will be holding the December 3rd meeting hopes to educate, inform, and train community members and front line workers in issues related to human trafficking. Raising awareness is vital. The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is (888) 373-7888.
If you would like to request an event or partner with the Renew Hope Initiative’s Advisory Council so that you can promote human trafficking awareness, identify, and implement strategies that will “renew hope” for victims and safeguard our children, please contact Adrian Carpenter at the Circle of Care by phone at (334) 768-4091 or by email at renewHOPE@thecirclecares.com.