A lot of people just can’t believe it.
“The topic of human trafficking is uncomfortable because it’s depressing and they don’t want to think about slavery and how can slavery still be happening?”
It is – and Alex Herring knows that because she’s lived it.
“I was promised schooling, I was promised this great life,” she explains.
Instead, she was forced to work for her trafficker, cleaning a home with hundreds of animals at a large property in Monroe, just outside of Charlotte.
She came from the UK and her tourist visa expired. Her trafficker, who she knew beforehand, controlled her through fear of deporation.
“I was stuck,” she tells.
Until one day a neighbor saw the abuse and called social services. That phone call made all the difference.
“That literally saved my life,” Herring says.
But Herring says there were other neighbors that didn’t know what to do or didn’t know what they were seeing.
“There’s a lot of red flags that we can kind of watch out for,” says Joe McCann, the Director of Church Engagement with World Relief in High Point. The organization has a program that serves human trafficking victims.
McCann says signs could be someone who might not have control of their own documents or not allowed to talk to others. It could also be someone who doesn’t leave a certain area, lives and works in the same premises.
Herring adds there could also be physical signs like blisters and bruises, or avoiding eye contact.
“People who might have poor dental health because they’re not being taken to the dentist or they’re not being able to see a doctor,” Herring explains. “People who are trying to avoid eye contact, they don’t seem like they want to talk to you or if they try to talk and somebody else keeps speaking for them, like they’re not being given a voice.”
Both McCann and Herring say knowing the signs are important because it could be happening in your neighborhood, hidden in plain sight.
“The fact that somebody was uncomfortable? I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse to not try to do what you can to help somebody because you could literally save someone’s life,” says Herring.
Herring works in Greensboro now and also is a board member and outreach coordinator for Triad Ladder of Hope, another organization that helps human trafficking survivors and raises awareness about the problem. She says it’s her way of paying back for those who were there for her after she was freed from her trafficker.
“I think it’s more common than people realize because it could be happening at schools, it could be happening in your neighborhoods and those are places I don’t think people realize straightaway that those are the obvious places this could be happening,” she says.
North Carolina is a state that’s more prone to human trafficking, for both sex and labor. There are more interstates, making it easier to move people.
“Just like drugs may be trafficked up and down the coast, humans can be trafficked up and down the coast along our interstates,” McCann explains.
There are also large agriculture and tourism industries, where people can be forced to work.
“Don’t be afraid to make a phone call, you may not be sure, but it doesn’t hurt to make a phone call.”
If you see something that could be human trafficking, call local law enforcement or you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Another thing to note is that a lot of data on human trafficking doesn’t show the full picture. Because it is such a hidden crime and it is underreported, there are a lot more cases than those that are documented.
Read more at 2WTK: Do You Know The Signs Of Human Trafficking?