Hey guys! My name is Lacey Elliott, and I’m a senior at Clemson! At Clemson, I was a double major in Communications Studies and Women’s Leadership. My focus during my college career has been in sex trafficking. I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice/bust some myths so that you can stay safe and know what to look for. I don’t say this to scare you, but to make you aware of what is occurring around you!
Myth 1: Sex Trafficking does not occur here
Most people think of sex trafficking as something that occurs in other parts of the world, not in the United States. However, the scary truth is that not only does sex and human trafficking occur in the US, but it also occurs right here in the Upstate of South Carolina. Atlanta is the number one city on the East Coast for sex trafficking and Charlotte is number five. In fact, the I-85 corridor, which runs between Atlanta and Charlotte, is the number one interstate in the country for trafficking. If you’re familiar with geography, you know that means that our area is smack dab in the middle of that corridor.
Last year, Greenville County had the most reported cases of sex and human trafficking in the state of South Carolina. Nationally we are also in the top of the charts. Here is a picture of national levels of trafficking for 2017. As you can see, the East Coast is a hugely trafficked area.
Myth 2: Traffickers go around kidnapping kids left and right
A lot of people think that the way the people get forced into trafficking is because they get snatched up walking home late at night, or someone grabs them off the street. While this may occur a few times, it is most definitely not the norm. What usually happens is that a man will meet a young girl and show romantic interest in her. We call this the “lover boy” approach, and it is the most common way that traffickers get their victims. They will take the girls out to nice dinners, buy them nice things, and tell them that they love them. Eventually they will get the girls hooked on drugs, beat the crap out of them, or even say “if you really love me you will do this and this for me…” Once that change in the relationship happens, the girl is trapped.
Some warning signs to avoid this are if a) a much older man seems to be very interested in young women b) a man spends a lot of money buying gifts, food, clothes, etc. for a young girl. Basically, if you see someone who is abnormally interested in young women, that’s sketchy.
Myth 3: Because traffickers are usually older, apps and websites for teenagers are safe
While the men and women (yes women too) who run trafficking rings may be much older, and usually don’t have a college degree, they are some of the smartest criminals out there. They are masters of manipulation and know exactly what to say to gain the trust of teenagers. They are extremely active on all kinds of apps like Monkey, Snapchat, and Instagram. They can easily disguise themselves as teenagers and get young people to tell them all about their life, their family situation, etc. By getting close to you, and knowing all your secrets, fears, and insecurities, they can and will use them against you later. I cannot stress enough that you need be EXTREMELY careful about who you talk to, what you post, and who you even let follow you on social media.
Myth 4: There is nothing you can do to help
While it may seem like something simple, a huge way for everyone to help is to download the app TraffickCam. Whenever you travel, you open this app and take a picture of your hotel room. These pictures are uploaded into a national database that aids law enforcement and third party organizations in identifying where victims are when their ads are posted online. For more information on what you can do to help, or just to read more about sex trafficking, visit www.polarisproject.org, or read the SC Coalition Against Trafficking’s annual report at http://humantrafficking.scag.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01559920.pdf
Lastly, if you or anyone you know need help; call the human trafficking hotline at
1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to 233733