Speaker addresses human trafficking issues

Victoria Roper
Staff Writer

According to FBI statistics, human trafficking is a $28 billion industry in the United States, and 40 percent of all trafficking in the nation happens in the Southeast. It is also the fastest growing crime, and 70 percent of trafficking in the U.S. begins in the foster system.

These were the facts discussed at the last meeting of Troy Voice of Justice, a campus organization that advocates for ending human trafficking.

President Angie Lewis, a sophomore social work major from Troy, said, “Voice of Justice works with national and local anti-trafficking organizations like Stella’s Voice in Montgomery and International Justice Mission.”

Alexa James, the director of operations for Well House, a non-profit, spoke at the Voice of Justice meeting. She gave statistics and advice for the members of the group.

Well House is an organization that rescues girls, ages 21 and under, from the human trafficking industry all over the United States. The founder of Well House was trafficked before being rescued, and began Well House to help those still trapped in the trafficking world. It has rescued over 200 women and children in the last two and a half years.

Work Faith is a job training program that works with Well House. The company partners with Well House and promises to give rescued women an interview once they complete the program.

“It is exciting and scary because they don’t know what (a real job) looks like for them,” said James.

Well House also has an 18 month program available for rescued women at a home located in Pell City. There, they are taught how to dress and act in a professional manner.

Recently, Well House signed an agreement with Governor Robert Bentley, creating an Alabama human trafficking task force. The organization is also in the process of opening a children’s home.

Courtney Patterson, a senior multimedia journalism major from Hartselle, asked, “What are some signs that we can look for to know if someone is being trafficked?”

James explained that some possible signs were people being constantly accompanied by their boss, not speaking for their own, having little control over personal schedule, loss of ID or money, transportation to and from work, working and living in the same place, owing debt to employers, being unable to leave a job, displaying signs of bruises, fear, depression, being overly submissive or having a change in personality.

According to James, women who are trafficked have an average lifespan of eight years because of the severe beatings that they suffer while being trafficked.

“I am a pioneer,” she said. “I believe in what I’m doing. There are no boundaries. You don’t have to be rich or poor or black or white or Asian.”

Every hour, 30 new children are missing across the United States, and a majority of those are now being trafficked.

Fusion centers, that are federal information gathering centers, are scattered throughout the United States with the ultimate job of gathering intel. Recently, they have seen an increase in skit parties in the U.S.

Skit parties are set up by the traffickers as a way of getting new girls involved in their business. One of the girls that is already in the situation is instructed to lure another female acquaintance by inviting her to a party or getting her to skip school. After she is drugged, pictures are taken of her and used as blackmail after the pimp drops her off later. This becomes a routine until “he is taking 90 percent of the money you’re making,” said James.

“It’s real,” she said. “Don’t be ashamed. You tell somebody. There are people out there that can help you. Don’t struggle by yourself.

“If you see a friend or a situation that seems unusual, keep an eye on them. Call someone that you can trust.”

The Voice of Justice will have its next meeting on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Trojan Center room 224.

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