January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and the need for that awareness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is great. Assessing just how widespread the problem is can be difficult. One national tracking source ranks Charlotte-Mecklenburg as high as sixth in the nation; another such source ranks us as ninth. There is no question that no matter what the rank, we are one of the top twenty cities in the nation for this problem.
- As many as 300,000 children in the US are at risk of becoming human trafficking victims.
- An estimated one out of every three children that run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.
- The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12-13 years old.
- 40% of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.
- Human trafficking is an issue for all socioeconomic levels and does not only affect low-income families and households.
Recently, Stephanie Klitsch, an IAT staff attorney, and Interim ED Robert McCarter were able to attend a best practices presentation in this ever emerging area of need presented by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Human Trafficking Task Force. The training was conducted by Dave Dawson, FBI Special Agent and Kelly Harrison, ICE-Homeland security. The stories they told from actual cases are horrifying and cry out for help for the victims of these crimes, many of whom are children. Children as young as five years old being are being trafficked for sex or labor.
Local efforts include those of Anne Tompkins, US Attorney, who is aggressively prosecuting trafficking cases and Sarah Byrne who leads Moore and Van Allen’s pro bono project in human trafficking. CFCR hopes to join and add to their efforts by providing direct advocacy services to the child victims. We will move into the area in an intentional and deliberate way. By putting together the many resources needed by these young victims, we will ensure that our work will be meaningful in dealing with this very complicated problem. If we can add this critical problem to our areas of advocacy in 2015, it will be a successful year indeed.
Two great resources for learning more about this issue