Alabama Anti Human Trafficking Alliance is helping identify predators, warning signs
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Every year, thousands of people fall victim to human trafficking in the United States, and the Family Sunshine Center says many victims live right here in River Region.
“People think that it happens in big cities, but it doesn’t. It happens through small towns; it really happens wherever people are,” said Jennie Tice, the Family Sunshine Center’s Human Trafficking Outreach Coordinator.
Human trafficking is the criminal practice of people enslaving or exploiting other people for profit. Perpetrators will use coercion, deception, force or fraud to make a victim perform sex acts or labor acts for something of value in return like money, goods or favors.
“It’s something that happens slowly and gradually, it is not something that happens where a stranger comes and abducts you,” Tice said.
“A lot of the sex trafficking victims are domestic, they are not from foreign countries and a good portion of them are children,” she added.
Tice says a lot of traffickers are parents or caregivers.
“Recently there has been a study that shows that about a quarter to a half of all kids that are trafficked are trafficked by a parent, it’s familial trafficking,” Tice said.
Tice said traffickers will target vulnerable children, many of whom are homeless.
“A lot of youth will have survival sex in that situation. They’re out the streets, they need to eat, they don’t have anywhere to go,” Tice said.
But it is not always runaway youth, the disabled or the poor who are targeted. Tice said a victim could also be a student who is excelling in class and spends a lot of time at school. Sometimes they do well in school because they are not getting any attention at home.
“We also have to look at who is being too perfect, because sometimes kids think if I just was better or if I just acted a certain way maybe they would love me or not treat me this way,” Tice said.
She also said the internet has played a huge role in child sex abuse. Traffickers now don’t even have to leave their homes.
“People sending photos and nudes of themselves, things like that, that then get used against them, and that’s a common trick that traffickers do,” Tice said.
She mentioned the online platform “OnlyFans” as a popular website where traffickers can take advantage.
“It really ends up being a false promise, but it really has been touted as ‘hey come make money really quick’,” Tice said.
The Alabama Anti Human Trafficking Alliance is working to combat human trafficking in the state. The multi-agency alliance is helping identify predators and has shed light on how victims are being taken advantage of.
With more resources working to identify victims and predators, the alliance is beginning to see just how prevalent this crime is in Alabama.
Attorney General Steve Marshall released the following statement on the success of the state’s new anti-human trafficking alliance.
“Since taking office as Attorney General, I have made a major goal of ending human trafficking. In 2021, my office joined with the Montgomery Family Sunshine Center to create a statewide Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance to coordinate the work of my office and over a dozen other law enforcement agencies and victim service organizations to combat human trafficking. We believe the launch of the Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance is already making a difference in bringing more cases to the forefront due to the professional training we are providing law enforcement to more quickly identify human trafficking. While we don’t 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 across the state affecting a total of 48 victims. "
Tice said being aware of the warning signs is the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
The Family Sunshine Center provides many services for victims of human trafficking. You can find a list of resources on their website.
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