Local non-profit on sex trafficking: 'It's happening in your own backyard'

Local non-profit on sex trafficking: 'It's happening in your own backyard'
Updated: Apr. 1, 2015 at 7:31 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Human trafficking is no longer an international crime, it's happening in the Lowcountry.

In 2013, South Carolina was among four states federally investigated for sex trafficking, and twelve people were ultimately charged.

That's according to lowcountry non-profit,

, an organization that offers counseling, education, and transitional care to sex trafficking victims.

"I've traveled all over the world, and I've seen broken little girls no matter where I went that were being used and abused by older men," said group founder Sharon Rikard.

"When you see enough of it, and realize that it's happening in your own back yard, I had to do something."

It wasn't until 2012, that South Carolina lawmakers passed the state's first human trafficking bill.  Since then. legislators found a loophole in the original legislation, with local authorities unable to prosecute trafficking cases outside their jurisdiction.

Under the new bill, S. 196, human trafficking cases can go before the state grand jury, giving prosecutors the power to pursue cases all over the state, regardless of local jurisdiction.

Rikard said the law also protects trafficking victims from having to share their experience multiple times.

"The trafficker has told them that law enforcement is their enemy, or if he goes to jail, they go to jail," she said.

"In their ignorance, they're afraid of law enforcement."

The measure now heads to Governor Nikki Haley for her signature.

After addressing the Summerville Rotary Club Wednesday, Governor Haley said her policy team in currently reviewing the bill, adding, "it's been something that's been a concern for a long time."

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