Human trafficking advocates worry about the number of unreported cases in Alabama

Members of a human trafficking task force in North Alabama area explain the trauma these victims face.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:15 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:28 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - In the month now recognized as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month investigators with the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 15 people connected to prostitution, drugs and human trafficking.

North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force Chair Pat McCay explains that what victims of human trafficking face is a hard thing to bounce back from.

“Severe, severe trauma. It’s pretty significant counseling and therapy that they have to go through to just get back to a normalcy that they can live with,” McCay said.

McCay says the worst part is that human trafficking typically happens right under our noses. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to lure people into some type of labor or commercial sex act.

The Department of Homeland Security calls the crime a form of “modern-day slavery” and McCay says she could not agree more.

“They’re forced to have many different intimate relationships during a one-day period, that is not normal. And that is modern-day slavery,” she said.

The Development Director at The WellHouse in Birmingham, which is a statewide shelter for sex trafficking victims, says victims of human trafficking tend to have something in common.

“Adverse childhood experiences,” said Leah Sanderson. “These can look like sexual assault at a young age, it can look like neglect in the home, it can look like homelessness or being in the foster care system at a young age. All of these things can contribute to vulnerability to being trafficked.”

Madison County Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Gann says they do not see human trafficking cases very often. Huntsville Police Department representatives said they are not experiencing human trafficking cases here in our area.

According to McCay, that does not mean it is not happening. She further explains that there was a recent uptick in Alabama during the pandemic.

“We know that during COVID, that the occurrence of that happened in an increased number,” McCay said. “People lost their jobs, they needed rent money, they are doing drugs, they need drug money. That is some of the impetus if you will, behind the trafficking of their own family members.”

The silver lining is that the problem does not seem to be so bad in Madison County. However, both experts said they are worried about all of the cases that go unreported.

Both leaders at The WellHouse and the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force will be at the Alabama Human Trafficking Summit in Montgomery on Jan. 26 and January 27.

If you or anyone you know is the victim of human trafficking, call the national hotline at: 1-888-373-7888.

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