Organizations stress importance of understanding human trafficking issues
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Two Lowcountry organizations that treat victims of human trafficking find ways to increase awareness and education on the topic after Attorney General Alan Wilson released the state’s 10th annual human trafficking report.
According to the data, Charleston County ranks second highest in the state when it comes to reported human trafficking cases. The numbers also show more victims have been reported in South Carolina this year.
Officials say Monday’s report does not mean Charleston County has more actual cases, but rather where the most reports are coming from.
This report shows Charleston County had 14 out of the 124 human trafficking cases reported across the state. But both The Formation Project and I Am Voices say this kind of crime is still underreported and there could be more cases that are happening under the radar.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of the general population understanding what this issue is and understanding what it’s not,” Mattie Critchfield Dodds, program director at The Formation Project, said.
The Formation Project is a nonprofit that surveys human trafficking survivors across the TriCounty area and I Am Voices provides housing and restorative care for women who experience sexual exploitation. Both of these organizations help identify where this issue comes from.
“We want them to report,” Megan Manigault, founder and executive director of I Am Voices, said. “That gives more awareness. So, that tells us as an organization there’s more education that needs to be done.”
Critchfield Dodds says it goes beyond just their help to stop this from growing into a bigger problem.
“Equipping our service providers and our first responders with the resources that they need to meet this issue where it’s at,” Critchfield Dodds said.
Manigault says women are the primary victim of this crime.
“We need psychiatrists, we need therapists, we need social workers,” Manigault said. “We need individuals that can kind of help us with all of the traumatic experiences women face.”
Critchfield Dodds says Charleston County is not alone.
To report an incident or seek victim services, you can contact local law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. The Hotline is confidential and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
”You could argue that there’s lots of risk here for vulnerable people to be exploited, but you can see that in other places across the state as well,” Critchfield Dodds said.
Manigault says the more reports mean more people are educated about the issue.
“Because we know trafficking is happening and it’s pretty common, I would like people to report more,” Manigault said. “I want them to share that it’s happening to them and they’re not just being silent.”
Charleston County Sheriff’s Office provided this statement when asked about the report:
Human trafficking is something our agency takes very seriously no matter the trends. We believe reporting of possible human trafficking has improved as a result of public education, first-responder training and robust reporting methods. CCSO has worked closely in recent years with the regional task force to employ new training.
Visit The Formation Project and I Am Voices websites to learn more about their missions and resources.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.