Human trafficking a growing N.C. problem
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
May 14, 2009

Human trafficking a growing N.C. problem

Human trafficking a growing N.C. problem
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
May 14, 2009

You don’t think human trafficking is a current — or local — issue?

Some of the estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide are in North Carolina and Sandra Johnson has started an organization to help free them. It was while she was working under a federal grant for World Relief that Johnson learned about human trafficking. Since then she founded Triad Ladder of Hope, a Christian Womens’ Job Corps site in Greensboro, which is dedicated to rescuing North Carolina’s human slaves. The group is also registered with the Health and Human Services Rescue and Restore Campaign.

“God gave me a passion for helping the helpless victims of human trafficking and slavery,” Johnson said.

The numbers can be staggering:

  • Women sold as many as 30 times a day.

  • 50 percent of child pornography web sites originate in the United States

  • Between 15,000 and 20,000 people trafficked annually in United States

  • Trafficking is a $35 billion business.

“They can actually be anywhere,” Johnson said, emphasizing that her data is four years old and the problem is increasing. While there are cases in North Carolina, Johnson said no statistics have been formally collected by any agency. The results wouldn’t be accurate anyway, she said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Sandra Johnson, president of Triad Ladder of Hope, a Christian Womens’ Job Corps site in Greensboro, leads a human trafficking session March 21 at Ridgecrest during Missions Extravaganza.

“The No. 1 thing people want to know, is give me some statistics,” said Danielle Mitchell, executive director of Triad Ladder of Hope, in a video made about human trafficking. “A lot of times I want to say ‘How many is enough? What number’s large enough to make me care? What number is large enough to get the body of Christ, to get the world, our community to stand up and say that’s enough? What statistic is going to be powerful enough to say it’s not OK?”

One of the main ways of tracking victims, Johnson said, is only after they have been issued a T visa, a type of visa that allows victims of human trafficking to stay in the United States if they assist law enforcement and testify against the perpetrators.

Johnson, who works part time as an administrative assistant at Central Triad Baptist Association and is a member of The Journey Church of the Triad in High Point, said 95 percent of prostitutes “are not there by choice.

“We label them and we try to avoid them because it makes us uncomfortable,” she said.

As Christians, Johnson said, “We are called to love those who are hurting.” She hopes Triad Ladder of Hope will set more men, women and children free and on a firm foundation.

“Victims will not be rescued until the community is educated,” she said, admitting that she too did not know it was a problem until she attended a seminar on the issue.

Although she had been on several international mission trips, she “still lived in a little box.”

Victims can be working in a restaurant – seemingly of their own will – or providing private child-care for a family.

If people believe it is not happening in North Carolina, they should read the newspapers or watch television news more carefully.

Johnson referenced a woman in Thomasville selling her daughter in exchange for drugs as well as a woman who was brought in as a bride and was instead used for prostitution.

In Raleigh, Johnson said homeless people were offered a job on a farm with room and board but they wound up trapped and owing the boss money because their room and board cost more than they were being paid.

“It is a growing crime,” she said, “and there are many hopeless, voiceless victims.”

One of the churches that has helped one of the victims is Guilford Baptist Church in Greensboro.

“Our church is just real giving,” said Susan Carter, WMU director. “Until I talked with Sandra … I was totally unaware (about human trafficking), our whole church was. It’s unbelievable.”

The church began helping one of the victims in fall 2008 with furnishings for her new apartment.

The victim had gotten a job and was just getting started. She’s a packaging contract worker with a local company and speaks French fluently.

“She loves to come and worship at our church,” Carter said, but she mainly goes to another church with friends. “I just know her as who she is. She’s a compassionate person. It doesn’t matter where she comes from.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Human trafficking is a growing problem but many people remain unaware that it could be occurring next door.

Carter hopes to have Johnson come and teach the church about human trafficking, until then the church is walking by faith with us (WMU).”

Triad Ladder of Hope received items to help its ministry during the annual Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) Missions Extravaganza at Ridgecrest in March.

Johnson led sessions informing women about human trafficking and how they can get involved in helping victims during the weekend-long event.

“The response of the (WMU-NC) was wonderful,” Johnson said. “We will be able to put together a lot of bags to help victims who are identified and to use in outreach projects.”

Since Johnson became aware about human trafficking she has worked to educate the public as well as policy makers and law enforcement about the growing problem in North Carolina. While her main focus has been education, Triad Ladder of Hope has helped five victims to escape the trafficking trade.“At this point very few victims are identified and rescued,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of variable as to why … they are brainwashed to believe no one will help them, they cannot escape, they are afraid they or their family will be killed, they don’t identify themselves as a victim, they do not know they are protected under U.S. law, they do not know their rights, our culture, do not speak English, etc.”

But Johnson said it is not hard for church members to help.

“Helping can be simply being a mentor, teaching someone how to ride a bus, putting out posters,” or a full-blown ministry, she said.

The next community training is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 30 at Westover Church in Greensboro and is free. In July there are training opportunities for service providers on three days in three cities.

Cost is $15 and continuing education units (CEUS) are available. Representatives from the Salvation Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will provide this training. For more information or to register, visit www.triadladderofhope.org.

Johnson is also available to teach groups or churches about how to spot human trafficking and what to do if a victim is discovered.

An error some churches might make is to reach out to those possibly involved in trafficking but without a plan to get them out once they’ve been reached.

“We need to make sure we have a safe place for victims to stay and a network of organizations in place to offer assistance,” she said.

Prayer points

Prayer is always important, said Sandra Johnson, founder and president of Triad Ladder of Hope, a ministry to help victims of trafficking. She says pray for victims, predators, rescuers and for protection for those working to stop human trafficking

Look for clues

  • Evidence of being controlled

  • Evidence of inability to move or leave job

  • Bruises or other signs of physical abuse

  • Fear or depression

  • Not speaking on own behalf and/or non-English speaking

  • No passport or other forms of identification or documentation

Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Key questions

  • What type of work do you do?

  • Are you being paid?

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?

  • Can you come and go as you please?

  • Have you or your family been threatened?

  • What are your working and living conditions?

  • Where do you sleep and eat?

  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom?

  • Are there locks on your doors/windows so you cannot get out?

  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?

Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center

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