In 2012 legislation was passed that required the Attorney General to chair a task force devoted to addressing the issue of human trafficking in South Carolina. In 2014 a statewide plan was developed to begin tackling the human trafficking epidemic and the task force is currently in the process of implementing this statewide plan. As part of this statewide plan, DCAC participates in the Tri-County Region’s locally-based workgroup. DCAC works directly with an already established network of agencies to address commercial sexual exploitation, child pornography, and human trafficking in Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston Counties.
What you should know about Human Trafficking:
- Human trafficking is impacting people of every socio-economic class.
- Victims of human trafficking include men and women, boys and girls.
- Traffickers are targeting their prey in both rural and urban settings, in our schools, businesses and tourist areas.
- There are an estimated 100,000 new escort advertisements every day and many are selling children.
- “Grooming” is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.
- Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know.
- According to victimsofcrime.org the steps of grooming are:
- Identifying and targeting the victim
- Gaining trust and access
- Playing a role in the child’s life
- Isolating the child
- Creating secrecy around the relationship
- Initiating sexual contact
- Controlling the relationship.
Individuals at high risk for sex trafficking:
- Disconnected from family, friends, community, organizations, & house of worship
- Homeless or runaway youth
- Identify as LGBTQ+
- A previous victim of sexual abuse, or another type of trauma
- Have an unstable home or family life
Signs of human trafficking:
- A sudden/dramatic change in behavior
- Has an excessive amount of money or goods
- Has multiple cell phones
- Fearful, timid, submissive, withdrawn
- Signs of being denied food, water, sleep, or medical care
- Appear to be coached on what to say
- Living in unstable & unsuitable conditions
- Has tattoos that connect the person to their trafficker
- Unexplained absences from school
- Has a significant other that is noticeably older
- Substance use
Tips for Protecting Your Child From Online Human Traffickers:
- Set strict privacy settings. If your child’s social media account is public, anyone can see their photos and personal information. Make sure that you restrict access to their profile only to their friends and followers.
- Don’t share personal information with strangers online. Social media should be a place where you safely interact with friends and family. Encourage your kids to only accept friends/follows from people who they know. Remind kids that chat functions for popular online games like “Fortnite” are only for gameplay and not for disclosing personal information. If a stranger becomes an online friend, they could slowly build trust and potentially start grooming your child for trafficking.
- Think before posting. Impress upon your kids that everything they post, regardless of privacy settings that you have set, is in the public domain. They should not post their phone number because that gives people a direct line to contact them. They should think twice about whether tagging a location in a photo because that gives people information about where they are located at that moment.
- Know the warning signs of trafficking. Recognizing the warning signs of sex trafficking will help you protect your kid and others.