Fight Against Human Trafficking in Greenville SC: Local Organizations and Initiatives
Getting Involved in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Greenville SC
The vast majority of people involved in sex trafficking are not strangers to the victims. They are friends, family and acquaintances.
The Julie Valentine Center and Jasmine Road are two local nonprofits that assist survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are part of a network of local organizations and national groups like A21, Polaris and the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Human trafficking is a problem that affects all of us. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs and help spread awareness. There are many ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, including supporting local orgs like Miracle Hill Ministries and Jasmine Road.
The Upstate Human Trafficking Task Force (Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Cherokee counties) focuses on prevention, fighting demand, intervention and restoration. They work with other local orgs to provide presentations and training on human trafficking.
The most common way that people are recruited into the commercial sex industry is by someone pretending to be their friend. This is known as Romeo pimping. Almost half of all kids trafficked into commercial sex are recruited by a family member. This is due to a process called trauma bonding. In some cases, traffickers even use physical abuse to get their victims to work for them.
As the movie “Sound of Freedom” hits theaters, local nonprofits are using it as a platform to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Greenville-based organization Set Free Alliance says the film is helping to shed light on a hidden problem that exists even close to home.
Those behind sex trafficking use force, coercion or fraud to make someone perform sexual acts for them in exchange for money, drugs or other goods. The victims are often exploited because of their vulnerability – such as drug addiction, poverty or homelessness.
Last year, South Carolina law enforcement officials worked on 416 cases involving human trafficking, and 399 of those cases involved children. The state Attorney General’s Office launched a new statewide prevention education initiative this fall called TraffickProofSC. The program includes a curriculum for high school students. It will also help parents recognize signs that their kids may be at risk. This Saturday, four South Carolina cities, along with 500 others around the world, will participate in the annual Walk for Freedom to support human trafficking victims.
The goal of the initiative is to prevent youth from becoming victims by teaching them how to spot and recognize the snares and lures that traffickers use. They also want to educate youth about the dangers of sex trafficking and how to avoid it.
In the past year, the organization has worked with about 300 children to ensure their safety and provide them with a place to stay and a way out of sex slavery. It is also working with the local community to increase awareness and help combat human trafficking.
Kathryn Moorehead, the coordinator of the SC Human Trafficking Task Force, says traffickers are targeting more children than ever before. They are using the chat features of video games and social media to build relationships with vulnerable youth, and then exploit them for sex. They are especially targeting those who may already be in contact with the justice system or who have been reported to authorities by those mandated to report cases, such as teachers and social service workers.
Several local organizations are dedicated to making a difference here in the Upstate. They work to educate the public, provide services for victims and train volunteers to join their mission. They also accept donations to fund their programs.
According to a 2021 report from state officials, Greenville County tied with Richland County for the highest number of human trafficking cases in South Carolina. The Upstate Task Force includes Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Cherokee counties and operates under the state attorney general’s office.
Diana Kindley, co-chair of the Upstate Regional Task Force and organizer of the Upstate Walk for Freedom, said that while she knew the issue was serious, she didn’t fully realize how bad it really was until she started organizing her event.
She said that she learned from attending the national A21 summits that many traffickers use social media to lure victims in. She cites TikTok videos of recorded sounds of babies crying and abandoned car seats, drug-laced roses and websites that advertise children’s swimwear as examples.