Lawmakers target human trafficking in North Carolina

Chris Rodier —
FILE PHOTO: Joy Anderson

RALEIGH — State lawmakers are taking steps to further combat human trafficking in North Carolina.According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, North Carolina is among the top 10 states for human trafficking cases. This number reflects both sex trafficking and forced labor.Joy Anderson, a sex trafficking survivor, said she was brought to Charlotte by her traffickers who dragged her and other women around the country, often following large conventions and events.”I actually didn’t know the term ‘sex trafficking’ when I was enslaved,” said Anderson, who joined lawmakers, including bill sponsors Reps. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) and Chris Malone (R-Wake), at a press conference on Tuesday. “I just thought this was my lot in life.”Brawley says that the Safe Harbor Law passed in 2013, which significantly increased punishment for both traffickers and purchasers, helped to crack down on the illicit industry but that it became increasingly clear that additional support was needed for the victims of human trafficking.”What do we do with the women when they get out?” asked Brawley, “They don’t have a good home to go back to, and in many cases they don’t really have a skill, they are bearing psychological scars.”House Bill 910 would allocate $50 million for direct victim assistance and education programs, including $37.5 million for shelter beds and $13.5 million for mental health services. The bill would also establish a pilot program for students in grades 6, 8 and 10 to educate them about the dangers and warning signs of human trafficking.For women like Anderson, the bill demonstrates that people out there care about them.”That dark and evil lifestyle is so scary, I didn’t think there would be a way out,” said Anderson. “I was in a hotel, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Is this all I was born for? I’d rather die, or will somebody help me?'”The state will partner with nonprofits to provide living and medical services for victims.Bill sponsors said the numbers are still a work in progress, and that H.B. 910 is just one more layer in their commitment to end human trafficking in the state.”We have to get serious about human trafficking, folks,” said Malone. “We’re helping the victims get the services they need, and become whole again.”