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Human Trafficking Community Forum

On Thursday, March 15, 2018 the Walterboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Walterboro District of the South Carolina United Methodist Church sponsored a forum on Human Trafficking at Bethel United Methodist Church. The purpose of the forum was to educate the community about Human Trafficking. Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion dollars a year in the US and is set to surpass drug trafficking as the #1 criminal enterprise worldwide in the next 3 to 5 years. Human trafficking is the act of trading humans for forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation (mistreatment).

The event was facilitated by DeQuanda Sanders, Executive Director of Saving Our Children and Families with presentations by Detective Charlie Benton; North Charleston Police Department Investigations-Human Trafficking Unit, Margie Gill; Executive Director of the Tabitha House in Atlanta GA (via video conference) and Carol Hogue; Program Quality Assurance Specialist from Darkness to Light. Panelist also included Deputy Kelly Padgett; Investigator at Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, Officer Denise Pinckney; Walterboro Police Department Crime Victim Advocate Program Coordinator, Catherine Russell; Allendale County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate and local support from Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Lynette Fryar; Victims Advocate and Lieutenant Tyger Benton; Public Information Officer. “Every year thousands of women, children and men fall into the hands of traffickers in this county and abroad,” said Sanders.

Charlie Benton’s presentation gave an overview of what Human Trafficking look like in South Carolina and how it is seen or recognized in normal social settings of the community and in your very own neighborhood. “We had a case of 9 men who were sentenced last week for trafficking over 100 girls in 11 different states including SC,” said Benton. 1 in 3 teens will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home if they are runaways or reported missing. “Most girls being trafficked has been abused as a child making it easy for traffickers to lure them away to exploit their vulnerability……young people need someone they can trust and talk to without being judged or shamed,” he says.

Hogue gave presentation discussing the 5 Steps to Protecting Children from Child Sexual Abuse: 1. Learn the Facts (1 in 10 children are sexually abused before age 18), 2. Minimize Opportunity (eliminating or reducing isolated one-on-one situations), 3.Talk About it ( have open conversation with your children out their bodies, sex and boundaries), 4. Recognize the signs (signs aren’t always obvious but you have to know what to look for) and 5. React Responsibly (don’t ignore a child, argue, or question in disbelief if they tell you they have been abused, make a report.

“A major misconception in human trafficking is a person must be kidnapped or physically confined (locked/hidden away),” said Charlie Benton. Most traffickers control their victims mentally by threating them and/or their family, use blackmail and physical abuse,” says Benton. Gill explained some of the current trends in human trafficking starts on social media, with peers in school rest rooms, city malls and hotels in small towns due to the lack of resources of officers to patrol the area and home in rural neighborhoods. “We had a case of a child as young as 5 years old trafficked by her parents to support the parents drug habit,” said Gill. “Human Trafficking does not discriminate between race, income or gender, it reaches every walk of life, “said Benton.

At the end of the forum, Sanders presented a “Call to Action” encouraging everyone to become aware, be proactive “if you see something say something”, become a part of the moment to protect children, keep them safe and help stop Human Trafficking. Places like the Tabitha House (Atlanta Ga.) and Doors to Freedom (Summerville SC) are helping to provide a safe place for survivors of sex trafficking. For more information about Human Trafficking visit the US Department of Homeland Security website at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking.

Cokeitha Gaddist (67 Posts)