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Human Trafficking Awareness Month: NC Ranked in top 15 nationwide

Human Trafficking Awareness Month
NC Stop Human Trafficking
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January is Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month, and many governmental agencies and the nonprofit NC Stop Human Trafficking are hosting events to educate citizens on the status of human trafficking in North Carolina.

Governor Roy Cooper declared January Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention month yesterday, and many cities, counties and nonprofit organizations are raising awareness through community information sessions and trainings.

Last year, 922 calls were placed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, ranking North Carolina 12th nationwide. Of those 922 calls, 223 resulted in identified cases.

NC Stop Human Trafficking is a Greenville-based nonprofit that provides training, advocates for anti-trafficking legislation, and raises awareness of human trafficking in North Carolina. Melinda Sampson, community outreach coordinator, says the number from the National Human Trafficking Hotline underrepresent the true number of cases in the state.

Victims are missed. And suspicions aren’t reported,” she said. “People say ‘Something’s not right here. I’m not sure what it is” and then they leave it at that.”

Sampson says the statistics from the hotline only include cases reported through the number, and do not include other organizations that handle human trafficking cases, like local law enforcement agencies, women’s shelters, and LGBT support services.

LGBT, women and homeless individuals are more likely to be victims because of a lack of social and systemic support, says Sampson. She cautioned that even though some populations are more at risk, human trafficking is a crime that occurs within all demographics. It is a myth to believe it doesn’t occur in certain groups.

“At the end of the day, a trafficker will exploit any vulnerability they see,” she said.

Sampson says it’s important to understand the facts about human trafficking so individuals can recognize incidents and respond appropriately. One common misconception is that people are trafficked or abducted in parking lots by strangers.

“People are really trafficked by people they already know,” Sampson said. “Educating yourself on what the reality of human trafficking is is very important because of this misconception that is proliferated over and over again.”

North Carolina’s major interstates, large military population and agricultural areas make the state popular for human traffickers, according to the North Carolina Department of Administration. Often, traffickers use the victim’s identity, like immigration status, or financial status to coerce them into forced labor or sex acts.

“It’s not because we’re doing anything wrong,” Sampson said about the state’s high ranking. North Carolina is the 9th most populous state. “Nonprofits and governments are raising awareness about human trafficking, so more people call the hotline.

Signs that someone may currently be trafficked include an inability to speak alone with someone, signs of physical abuse, living with their employer, or if a young person has a much older romantic partner, among other signs.

Ultimately, Sampson says, if you see something, say something and call the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

As part of Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month, NC Stop Human Trafficking is hosting a series of events, including sessions on the history of human trafficking in the state, child safety online, and caregiver guidance. Governor Cooper declared Wednesday, January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Participants are invited to wear blue tomorrow.

The number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888.

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée and two cats.