January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

How can we help?  What can we do?  Is Human Trafficking even a problem in the Lowcountry?

A few years ago, I sat in a circle of multigenerational ladies from every background and all circles of life sharing concerns for a young girl in my life who had been sexually assaulted.  I will never forget hearing story after story from these dear ladies as they shared their own experiences with me.  The cold realization was that abuse may seem lonely, but it is not.  It is common and that is heart shattering. 

Today, I am bringing you into this circle of conversation in honor of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month and on behalf of Fresh Start Healing Heart (FSHH) headquartered in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with ambassadors nationally. FSHH walks with survivors of all forms of human trafficking UNTIL.  Even for always if that is what is needed.  In the United States, January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which was started in 2011 by a presidential proclamation. January was selected as the commemorative month as it is the anniversary month of the Emancipation Proclamation.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 25-million people are victims of human trafficking around the world. Maybe you are thinking that there is no human trafficking in the Lowcountry? Perhaps you believe that it only happens in other countries or large cities?  Human trafficking is everywhere.   It is modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues within the sex industry: pornography, residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution. Labor trafficking has been found in diverse labor settings: domestic work, small businesses, large farms, and factories.  Victims are of all races, religions, genders, and ages.

FSHH works hard to raise public awareness of human trafficking.  With the support of the community, they also provide safe housing, an escape plan, support groups, and even case management.  Their desire is to take care of current needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and counseling so that survivors can focus on healing.  From there they help them plan, build confidence, continue education, and map out the future.  Often health care and legal support are also needed. 

So, what can we do? How can we help? Thanks to FSHH, there’s several things you can do locally. Shop, volunteer, and donate items to Fresh Start Clothing and Accessories, a thrift store located at 680 MLK Blvd, Estill, SC which benefits survivors of human trafficking. Visit freshstarthealingheart.org for opportunities to spread awareness, connect victims to services, support financially, and volunteer your time. If we each take a part in this work, if we come together to help, whether it is a little bit of money or time, collectively we make a huge difference.

Previously published in Hampton County Guardian and Bluffton Today

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s