North Carolina could spend as much as $50 million to help victims of sex trafficking under a measure unveiled Tuesday.
Lawmakers touted House Bill 910 as a way to help people like Joy Anderson, a victim of sex trafficking.
“I’m a survivor of human sex trafficking,” Anderson, 30, told reporters at the General Assembly. “I didn’t know the term ‘sex trafficking’ when I was enslaved. I just thought it was my lot in life.”
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Anderson, whose story was recounted in a Charlotte Observer story last month, joined Republican Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews and his co-sponsors, GOP Reps. Nelson Dollar and Chris Malone of Wake County.
As written, the bill would allocate $37.5 million for shelter beds, $13.5 million for mental health services, and $4.5 million to educate students on the warning signs for trafficking. Brawley says a bed and services can cost up to $40,000 a year for each victim. Mental health services could cost another $15,000.
Dollar, the House budget chair, said the figures are designed more to show the scope of the problem than as an actual budget request.
“I don’t think you should focus too much on the numbers in there,” he said. “This is still very much a work in progress.”
According to the anti-trafficking Polaris Project, 8,042 cases were reported nationwide in 2016 – 35 percent more than a year before. In North Carolina, 181 cases were called in to the National Human Trafficking Hotline last year, up from 112.
Anderson was rebellious and 21 when she left her adoptive family in Aiken, S.C.
With no money and no place to stay, she started selling herself for sex. She eventually went to a club where a girlfriend pulled out a wad of cash. “She told me it was easy,” Anderson would say. “That was the lie I bought into.”
That’s when she got in with a rough crowd, who fed her growing addiction and kept her on a tight leash, reinforced with beatings. One night they sent her to a “client” at a Charlotte hotel. She knocked on the door. Inside were FBI agents. She eventually found help with a Cabarrus County nonprofit run by Lanie George, herself a one-time trafficking victim.
The lawmakers described the measure as the first step in a long process.
“Every day in North Carolina, women are being raped for money,” Brawley said. “And we want to make it stop.”