What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is often referred to as “modern day slavery.” It exploits people for the purpose of commercial sex and/or labor through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. According to the U.S. State Department, there is an estimated 27 million men, women, and children enslaved in the world currently.
Human trafficking is extremely lucrative. It has grown into a world wide $150 billion industry and is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, second only to drugs. This may be surprising, but consider this: drugs can only be sold one time; however, humans can be sold over and over and over. In this context, they become a reusable commodity. The one commonality between victims of human trafficking is vulnerability. Those who are not educated or aware of this issue are vulnerable, and therefore, are more likely to become a victim of human trafficking.
The State of our State
North Carolina is a top state for human trafficking, yet struggles to help the most vulnerable victims in need of assistance due to a severe lack of coordinated services and resources across the state. As an east-coast hub for national transit, a leader in military bases, an agriculturally dependent state, and a prosperous resettlement location for immigrants, it comes as no surprise that North Carolina consistently ranks within the top ten states for human trafficking, according to the Polaris Project. It is a unique state which holds both a high demand for cheap sex and cheap labor, and a large supply of vulnerable individuals. Law enforcement has uncovered brothels and major sex rings across the state, including an investigation which led to 40 human trafficking arrests.
Despite the growing issue, the need to address human trafficking in North Carolina remains vastly under-met. Victims from all age ranges, genders, and demographics are at risk of never being identified or not getting connected with proper resources to help them regain stability in their lives.
The Salvation Army's Role
In 2011, The Salvation Army of Wake County initially set out to address this problem through the establishment of a comprehensive case management program, Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) and was overwhelmed by the results. Without data to predict the potential number of victims across the state, Project FIGHT was established to handle 12 cases over two years, but by the second month alone, those 12 cases were opened. In just the two and a half year time period since its establishment, Project FIGHT has opened over 91 cases of both labor and sex trafficking and assisted 143 individuals, and the case load has increased each year. In 2011 Project FIGHT saw 30 clients, 38 in 2012, and 42 in 2013. As of August 2016, Project FIGHT has experienced 127 cases of human trafficking through which they provided resources to over 250 men, women and children. These numbers are staggering, considering the general lack of awareness about human trafficking in the state.
Since this time, Project FIGHT been able to build the right relationships across the state with law enforcement, medical professionals, sexual assault agencies, refugee services, employment programs, other anti-human trafficking organizations and legal services to promote their actions in order to correctly identify victims and provide the services they need. To coordinate these efforts, Project FIGHT sits on the executive committee of the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking and is the local area coordinator for the Rapid Response Team of the Triangle.
So who is Project FIGHT?
Project FIGHT is currently located in five different locations across the state:
- New Bern
Six case managers, one lead case manager, and a coordinator compile this team of Salvation Army employees. Together they:
- Provide comprehensive trauma-informed case management for survivors of human trafficking
- Assist with follow needs: safety, legal, housing, medical, mental health, education, employment
- Coordinate and sit on Rapid Response Teams across the state to comprehensively assist victims upon identification
- Collaboratively work with with variety of partner agencies to meet the needs of clients
- Offer training and education to community groups, schools, professionals, and service providers
- Build community awareness through events
- Conduct outreach to potential victims of human trafficking
- Over 60 referrals/cases
- Received 2 two year grants to expand statewide response
- Hired Program Coordinator
- Events: JustArt, Brewers Against Brothels
- Held first ever Survivor Workshop for survivors of human trafficking
- Expanded Statewide Response to include two additional locations: Charlotte & New Bern
- Hired 3 new case managers for Project FIGHT
- Built Area Rapid Response Teams
- Increased Partnerships statewide
- Celebrated assisting over 100 survivors of human trafficking
- Expanded Statewide Response to include two additional locations: Asheville & Greenville
- Hired 2 new case managers for Project FIGHT
- Created and hired lead case manager position for Project FIGHT
- Collectively trained over 4,500 professionals and community members
- Referals increased over 64%, reaching 318 referrals to Project FIGHT
- Explore option of drop in center
- Strengthen sponsorship and engagement opportunities for survivors
- Offer more tangible ways for people to volunteer
- Identify and assist more victims of trafficking
- Begin housing assistance programs for victims of human trafficking