Local group helps former prostitutes

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An alleged pimp was arrested this week for allegedly prostituting women in West Ashley. According to Charleston police, Daniel Burton had several women working for him in local motels.

On Wednesday, he was given two $50,000 bonds on the charges and he is also wanted in Maryland for human trafficking.

For the women entangled in prostitution or the victims of human trafficking, there is help here in the Lowcountry.

Sharon Rikard says crimes like prostitution and human trafficking aren't just issues prevalent in third-world countries.

"It is a problem in Charleston, South Carolina --  mostly because we are a coastal city and we are very close to I-95 which runs all the way down to the southern United States, so we're a prime target," Rikard said.

Last year, Rikard founded the non-profit "Doors to Freedom", which provides vocational training, education and support to women who were previously victimized as prostitutes.

She already mentors several of these women each week, but is fundraising in order to create a residence to house 20 of them in the future.

"Doors to Freedom is being established to provide a safe place, where they can thrive in an environment where they know they are safe and they are loved," Rikard said.

From giving the women training and education -- to one day, even housing them, Rickard says she hopes a new state law will help her on her mission. The law, which goes into effect in December, means tougher penalties for suspects -- like Burton, who allegedly had two women he prostituted. The new law would allow assets of those found guilty to be taken.

"If there's any cash, it's gone, if there are any vehicles, they're gone, if there's any houses, it's gone," she said. "So it will allow our court system and our prosecutors to be sure that those assets are forfeited and those assets are used to pay for victims services."

That law will also include victim restitution, or payment back to those women working as prostitutes. It also calls for the attorney general's office to create a task force that will all go in effect Dec. 18.

For more information, visit the Doors to Freedom website.

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