By Karen Bean, See the Triumph Contributor
According to the Polaris Project (http://www.polarisproject.org/) North Carolina is 10th in the nation in Human Trafficking. This is based on the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888). Arguably, this is only one measure but, as human trafficking is largely an invisible problem which is not tracked extensively, the issue could be much larger and determining which state has the largest volume of trafficking is irrelevant.
The personal stories of trafficking survivors that live in the Charlotte area, where I live, are testament to the horrific and heartbreaking reality of human trafficking. Their willingness to share their experiences and to advocate for change are truly inspiring. I am co-chair for a group that is trying to understand how widespread human sex trafficking is in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and what we can do to eradicate the problem.
Our group is passionate about gathering information and advocating for a solution. We have talked with police departments, judges, district attorneys, and shelter administrators in addition to reading and attending workshops to increase our knowledge. However, our process has had its ups and downs.
Human trafficking is such a huge issue nationally and globally. How can we possibly make a difference? We seem to be running in place and I fear that our group is feeling disheartened. In spite of this, I remain hopeful. North Carolina has passed legislation in the past few years that has established a fairly strong legal framework for handling traffickers.
Our study group has decided to narrow our focus to actions that could have tangible results locally. One example is advocating for education and awareness of human trafficking for children and their parents. The typical age of girls lured into trafficking is 13, and often the first connection with a trafficker is though the Internet. Informing young children of how trafficking occurs and what to do if they or their friends are faced with a trafficking situation is a small but important step. Then we’ll go from there.
Advocacy reminds me of an a cappella choir. Even without instruments the voices make a beautiful sound. And with each added voice the sound becomes more powerful and even more beautiful. Add your voice on issues that matter to you. Collectively, we can make a difference!