When Mertleen Dorsey hosted her first breast cancer walk in honor of her daughter, she knew she had to do more. So she decided to host an event that hopefully will reach the community on a subject that is not readily discussed.
Mert, as she is known by friends, will hold a human trafficking awareness event March 21, at the Chavis One Stop Gymnasium in Hemingway. “I just want the kids and parents to be aware of what’s going on,” said Dorsey. “Living in the country, we don’t think things like that happen and want to make the people here know just because we’re here be aware these things go on.”
She has help from a friend and representative of her community. Torrance Wilson is the Williamsburg County Councilman for District 2. He was supportive of Mert’s cancer walk and wanted to help once again. “Believe it or not, we have a lot of this going on around us but it really doesn’t touch home or resonate as much with us because it doesn’t happen directly in our backyard,” said Wilson. “And as a councilman, that’s one of the things we do is support our constituents in their endeavors.”
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes guest speakers from Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office, Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, and Janis Croteau, Co-Chair Coastal Region Human Trafficking Task Force Information Coordinator. Vendors, refreshments, and hotdogs for the kids will also be a part of the event.
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that occurs in every state. According to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, statistics and data are presently scarce for human trafficking in South Carolina on the state level, due in large part to the underground nature of the crime. A new report shows the number of recorded human trafficking victims in South Carolina increased by 360% in 2019. The increase in victims and cases is attributed to additional task force activity and inter-agency cooperation as well as public awareness and support.
According to the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force, the number of adult victims is 135 females, 35 males and 81 unknown. The majority of female victims are minors. The top exploiter relationship to the victim is the employer followed by the recruiter, other, intimate partner and familial relationship to the victim. The top recruitment tactic is job offer/advertisement. The top five counties are Horry, Greenville, Richland, Dorchester and Charleston.
Everyone can play a role in combating human trafficking. By identifying victims and reporting tips, we can do our part to help law enforcement rescue victims, and possibly save a life. If you suspect human trafficking, contact the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office at (843) 355-6381 or 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) to report suspicious criminal activity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).