Workshop targets human trafficking


Staff Writer

Sunday, August 18, 2019

People hear about instances of human trafficking on a regular basis, thinking it is happening someplace else.

“That’s the problem, especially in smaller communities,” said Kenny Sumner, executive director of SAFE — Support-Advocate-Fight-Educate, a nonprofit organization designed to help inform and educate the community about human trafficking.

On Tuesday, SAFE will host a seven-hour workshop titled “Addressing Human Trafficking in Your Community” to offer training for professionals in Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson counties in a number of topics to help address the human trafficking issue.

The cost of the conference, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Life Church, 1127 Benvenue Road, is $6.

Speakers at the conference include federal prosecutors who have been on the front lines of the sex trafficking battle, a survivor of human trafficking and representatives from the Fayetteville Police Department and the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office.

“These are folks who are on the front lines in this fight,” Sumner said. “They see it on a regular basis and will share information on how to investigate, identify victims and help the victims.

“It (trafficking) is very prevalent in Nash County and eastern North Carolina,” Sumner said, adding that all counties in the region are designated as underserved in regard to addressing the human trafficking issue.

Sumner said that human trafficking occurs when someone is forced, prodded or coerced into performing sex acts.

“The most common instances here are sex and labor trafficking,” he said. “It’s a confidence process. They (victims) are told something that sounds like it might be possible, but very likely, it’s not plausible.”

Sumner said the confidence game might involve the promise of a good-paying job or a modeling or movie contract.

“They (trafficker) gain their (victim’s) confidence and get them in a more vulnerable position,” he said.

He said that sometimes, the traffickers get the victim’s documentation under the guise of helping them with a job application and never return it.

“If they don’t have their paperwork, they can’t leave,” he said.

Sumner said there are over 100,000 child trafficking victims in the United States annually.

“On top of that, we have the adult sex trafficking and the labor trafficking,” he said. “It is a huge problem.”

Topics to be covered include how to investigate human trafficking cases, how to identify victims, how to communicate with victims, how to provide trauma-informed services and working together to address human trafficking in one’s community.

Presenters will include U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Jackson, a survivor of human trafficking and representatives from A Safe Place, the Fayetteville Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.

Additionally, Amanda Gopal of The Hundred Movement; Kiricka Yarbrough-Smith, human trafficking project administrator for the N.C. Council For Women; retired Maj. Rick Hoffman of the Raleigh Police Department; and Pam Strickland, founder of Eastern Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now, will be featured.