MONTGOMERY, Alabama (WSFA) — Thousands of people become victims of human trafficking in the United States each year, and the Family Sunshine Center says many victims live right here in the River Region.
“People think it happens in big cities, but that’s not true. It passes through small towns; it really happens wherever there are people,” said Jennie Tice, human trafficking coordinator at the Family Sunshine Center.
Human trafficking is the criminal practice of enslaving or exploiting other people for profit. Perpetrators will use coercion, deception, violence, or fraud to get a victim to perform sexual acts or labor acts in return for a consideration such as money, goods, or favors.
“It happens slowly and gradually, it doesn’t happen when a stranger comes and kidnaps you,” Tice said.
“Many of the victims of sex trafficking are local, they are not from abroad and a good proportion of them are children,” she added.
Tice says many traffickers are parents or caregivers.
“There was a recent study showing that about a quarter to a half of all children who are trafficked are trafficked by a parent, it’s family trafficking,” Tice said.
Tice said traffickers would target vulnerable children, many of whom are homeless.
“A lot of youngsters will have survival sex in this situation. They’re on the street, they have to eat, they have nowhere to go,” Tice said.
But it’s not always the runaway youth, the disabled, or the poor who are targeted. Tice said a victim could also be a student who excels in class and spends a lot of time at school. Sometimes they do well in school because they don’t get any attention at home.
“We also need to look at who is too perfect because sometimes kids think if I was just better or just behaved a certain way, maybe they would love me or not treat me that way,” Tice said.
She also said that the internet has played a big role in child sexual abuse. Traffickers don’t even have to leave their homes now.
“People send photos and nudes of themselves, stuff like that, and they use it against them, and that’s a common trafficking ploy,” Tice said.
She mentioned the online platform OnlyFans as a popular site where traffickers can profit.
“In the end, it’s really a false promise, but it was really touted as, ‘Hey, come on, make some money real fast,'” Tice said.
The Alabama Anti Human Trafficking Alliance works to combat human trafficking in the state. The multi-agency alliance helps identify predators and has shed light on how victims are being taken advantage of.
With more resources working to identify victims and perpetrators, the Alliance is beginning to see just how pervasive this crime is in Alabama.
Attorney General Steve Marshall released the following statement on the success of the state’s new anti-trafficking alliance.
“Ever since I took office as Attorney General, my goal has been to end human trafficking. In 2021, my office partnered with the Montgomery Family Sunshine Center to create a statewide one Alliance Against Human Trafficking to coordinate the work of my office and over a dozen other law enforcement agencies and victim support organizations to combat human trafficking. We believe that the creation of the Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance is already making a difference by bringing more cases to the fore as we provide law enforcement with professional training to detect human trafficking faster. Although we do not publicly comment on the details of ongoing investigations, the Attorney General’s Office is actively working with our Alliance partners on at least 17 human trafficking investigations statewide involving a total of 48 victims. “
Tice said knowing the warning signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.
Information is available at http://www.alabamaalliance.org/ and the Alabama Attorney General’s website.
The Family Sunshine Center offers many services to victims of human trafficking. A list of resources can be found on their website.
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