Most Charlotte-area residents may be shocked to hear that North Carolina is ranked as one of the 10 worst states for human trafficking.How could that be the case, after all, in a region known for its charm and hospitality?Contributing factors that increase human trafficking locally include multiple major highways, frequent truck stops, military bases, and many large-scale public events that occur in the state, according to a report from the U.S. Department of State.Traffickers also view North Carolina’s large immigrant population as prey to exploit, manipulating them with threats of deportation or empty promises of a better life.“It’s a fact that human trafficking is happening here in this region, and that these victims are living in the closest thing to hell on earth that we can conceive of,” said Simon Arkley, U.S. director of The Justice Project. “However, there is hope. People like you and I are waking up to the reality of what is going on and realizing that, in order to fight this evil, we must take action.”The Justice Project, a nonprofit with its U.S. base of operations in the Charlotte area, will offer an opportunity Oct. 5 to take action in the fight against human trafficking. The first Justice Run 5K and Family Fun Day will be that day at Frank Liske Park in Concord. The day will include bounce houses, raffles, games and food, as well as the road race. Arkley said one does not need to be a runner to attend; he called participation in the day “a tangible way to help.”Money raised by the Justice Run will go toward fighting human trafficking locally. That work can range from providing outreach and training materials to pursuing safe-house initiatives.Event sponsors include The Benham Foundation, Volk Physical Therapy and PresPro.“It’s our desire to see our region unified in the fight, where a victim will be spotted and helped no matter where they go; where a community will rally to make it impossible for traffickers to operate here without being reported,” said Arkley. The vision is a world where prostitutes are “given a fresh start” and “runaways will be approached by people who want to protect them and not the bad guys,” he said.According to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report, www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/, fewer than 1percent of victims of human trafficking are ever identified. In 2012, 40,000 victims were identified globally, while it is estimated that 27 million people are being trafficked.Signs that someone may be a victim of trafficking include being a young girl or boy with much older men; seeming fearful and controlled; being unable to interact with others; being unable to come and go at will; not knowing where they are; having no identification or money of their own; displaying signs of punishment, such as bruises; appearing to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and/or dressing provocatively with groups of men.Anyone who suspects human trafficking can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.“The great thing about this hotline is you can call even if it’s a hunch or gut feeling,” said Arkley, who suggests that people program the number into their phones in case they ever need to use it.The Justice Project started in Europe in 2010 to reach out to women working in Germany’s legalized system of prostitution. In early 2012, the U.S. base for The Justice Project opened in Charlotte.Charlotte was selected, Arkley said, not only because he already lived here but also because of the “immense potential in Charlotte.”“We saw a city that is growing rapidly and seemed unusually sensitive to the plight of the less fortunate,” he said. “We’ve always envisioned Charlotte as a ‘lighthouse city,’ a place where people could work together to make a positive impact and then be an example for other cities to look to.”
Friday, Sep. 06, 2013
Justice Run 5K to raise awareness of human trafficking
Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marjorie? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less