April is a time when the nation observes Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention. On the local level, the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault staff were active in bringing about that awareness by holding a candlelight vigil and bubbles release at the Williamsburg County Courthouse along with sponsors Guardian Ad Litem, as well as hosting a 5-K Walk/Run sponsored by the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the most informative events was held for health service providers on the Intersection of Human Trafficking and Foster Care. The event was held April 25, and presented by Michelle Harkey, MS, CCTP, VSP of Pee Dee Coalition. “It is great to see the community respond to the need of education around this topic,” said Harkey in an email. “Human trafficking is an increasing threat to at-risk youth and the more training received in the community, the greater support can be provided to victims. Hopefully, the need for this type of training will no longer exist as we work to prevent the ongoing recruitment of victims.”
Williamsburg County Pee Dee Coalition Volunteer Coordinator Adrielle Cooper said community events are one way to get the ball rolling. “We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence in our community. Our actions, big and small, have a ripple effect on those we mentor, lead, and influence,” said Cooper in an email. “From modeling healthy behavior to addressing inappropriate conduct, everyone can make a difference.”
Cooper says anyone can help by calling out victim-blaming comments or rape jokes if they hear or see them in person or online and also by perpetuating the comments or jokes by making them yourself. “Remind those around you that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault,” said Cooper. “These actions may seem small, but they can make a critical impact.”
Current data from 2014 suggest 60 percent of trafficked victims are children in foster care or group homes. Human trafficking includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking. It involves both U.S. citizens and foreigners alike, and has no demographic restrictions. It is believed sex trafficking generates over 30 billion worldwide and the FBI estimates that over 100,000 children are victims.
What is being done? Reforms are being made to the child welfare system and the National Foster Youth Institute is working with policymakers to pass legislation aimed at protecting children from trafficking.
For more information about Pee Dee Coalition and Child Abuse Prevention Month, please call the Pee Dee Coalition at (843) 354-6481 or the 24-hour crisis line (800) 273-1820. Pee Dee Coalition is a member of the Black River United Way.
If you believe you are the victim of a trafficking situation or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888.