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North Carolina's Fight Against Human Trafficking

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
June 27, 2021 10:57 pm

North Carolina's Fight Against Human Trafficking

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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June 27, 2021 10:57 pm

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Shawna Pagano from Pat’s Place, the lead agency for North Carolina’s statewide initiative to fight human trafficking through Project NO REST. Pagano shares her experiences working with trafficking victims in North Carolina, and how Project NO REST is working to eliminate this modern-day slavery in our state.


Welcome to family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Rustin, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will fold better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters.

Tracy Devitt brings thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters Katz Place has served as the lead agency for project arrest in Mecklenburg County project. No rest is a statewide initiative of the UNC Chapel Hill school of social work designed to increase awareness and enhance the response to human trafficking of North Carolina youth and young adults, Shawna Pagano, human trafficking, outreach coordinator, welcome to family policy matters to me so it's rather shocking to hear that North Carolina has historically been one of the worst states in the nation for human trafficking. Why is that and are we seeing some improvement really hard to say how many cases of trafficking. We have her state to which you referring comes from data from the National human trafficking Hotline and each year they ranked state depending on how many calls they received reporting pics about human trafficking. When you say that North Carolina has historically been one of the worst states for trafficking based on the number of calls by state to that hotline number is only the tip of the iceberg. We really don't know how many cases of human trafficking.

We had each state extremely underreported crime with important to remember is that human trafficking happened in all 50 states and all. So all community to be educated about those red flags and how to report it on but we certainly see just in Charlotte alone, more cases of human trafficking years that are higher than what the entire state report to the National human trafficking Hotline right so it is possible then to be fair, it is possible that the state has done a really good job of getting the information out about how this can be reported that possibly even the tip line has been promoted better than in other places that were actually just reaching more of these people.

So to be fair.

That could be the case as well. Right we do know we have a problem. We have a problem, but there are other factors that influence the number of calls that hotline, so the goals of Project no rest which your organization is associated with was to identify best practices for response to human trafficking. So what have you found that works best in the Charlotte area. Human trafficking takes a collaborative effort. It really does take all facets of the community working together. That means victim that will discuss later is very exhaustive lift so it takes a strong commitment from that community to really make trafficking or response to human trafficking a priority and having elected officials that also make that a priority make an impact in that community because that attitude permeates throughout the entire community's place focuses on approach of a one-stop shop for victims of abuse is not a unique approach to think place is a child advocate.

The center is an accredited child advocacy center and Darrell over 800 of those across the country and the child advocacy center model of care and responding to allegations of abuse is based on a multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse cases that bring together law enforcement, criminal justice, child protective services medical, mental health workers into one coordinated team and it's really considered best practice when responding to any allegation of child of the let's talk a little bit about public policy. The North Carolina Gen. assembly has passed several bills in the past few years trying to address the issue of human trafficking in our state. Are you seeing some impact from that one of the biggest impact I see what's from a change of session lock to 18 75 and amended the definition of an abused juvenile North Carolina. Prior to this law, childhood abuse by someone other than a parent or guardian with non-investigated by social services and the children who being trafficked by a trafficker who is not apparent when not included in that definition. Many of these children were falling through the cracks in the family needed support and they needed resources, and so that was one of the biggest change I file with allowing human trafficking of anyone under the age of 18 to meet the legal definition of an abused juvenile and are the abuse. There is and really allow social services to help that family and provide some support, guidance, and some oversight and North Carolina is one of only a handful of states with that legal definition. The other thing with Zenith Eschenbach 2019, 158, the very necessary law in that it provided the opportunity for victims of human trafficking to expunge their criminal records for nonviolent defense and the reason that's important is because often times victims of trafficking are forced to participate in criminal acts by their trafficker and his criminal record make it very challenging for survival of traffic to help find housing and employment, and other really necessary thing to be successful in the allowing of charges to be vacated or expunged was a very needed remedy these often immigrants who are being trafficked are they local kids really we see victims of trafficking across the spectrum will say a majority of the cases that I work with our youth who are US citizens. There were born in the US. However, we know that in immigration status can be used against the person and makes them vulnerable to trafficking. So we often times the a lot of undocumented folks that may be victims of trafficking as well. I see that primarily in labor trafficking, but it it occurs in sex and labor trafficking.

That's amazing. So I think many of us may think that human trafficking is happening to people who are shipped in from overseas or people who maybe are here without legal status and so they are they are more vulnerable. But what you're saying is that that it could be our next-door neighbor or teenager or our own child back to one of the greatest men that had permeated human trafficking for years is that no victims are primarily those from other countries and honestly the message I really want to get across is that victims of trafficking can be anyone.

It doesn't matter who it is we see in rural, suburban, urban areas in affluent neighborhoods. Also, few economic statuses and rated this idea that it's only people shipped in here. It is really just not sure more about the needs that you see.

You mentioned some of the ways that this is being addressed in North Carolina. Are there some suggestions or recommendations for how you would like to see it continue to be addressed. I'll speak to policy and legislation first. Currently there is an effort to change legislation to allow those who by spectrum children to be charged with trafficking. Legally, a minor cannot consent to a commercial sex act, meaning they cannot consent to sexual activity in exchange for anything of value in a person buying back from a child. Essentially statutory rate and needs to be held accountable and treated as you know a trafficker. In fact, because they are furthering the sex trafficking industry session lock 2019, 158 did try to address this, but the statute that that muddy and needs clarification. Though one of the things that I understand it happening is that there is an effort to clear that up which is definite a positive and hopefully that will pass with flying colors.

And honestly I mean when you have an adult that engaging in sex with a child we consider that child abuse, but if they somehow pay for that amount. There is lesser penalties and that's just that needs to be clarified, I also advocate for North Carolina to pass Aaron's law. Errands like the name of legislation that requires child sexual abuse prevention education be taught to kids in school. North Carolina is one of the only states that did not have Aaron's law and child sexual abuse legislation is important because child sexual abuse is strongly correlated with later victimization for trafficking in some studies show that it many as 90% of sex trafficking victim had a history of sexual abuse so we need to be educating kids about body safety and sexual abuse from a young age in a developmentally and age-appropriate manner so that we are preventing both child sexual abuse and hopefully later victimization through trafficking, parents, teachers and community leaders.

We all need to be more aware as well. So, tell us what some of the biggest risk factors are that we should all be aware of when it comes to young people being targeted for trafficking target. A child vulnerability and that can be anything. So if a child is looking for love and acceptance trafficker will offer that by pretending to be that child's boyfriend is a young person is living on the street and needs food or rider shelter in a trafficker with you but what I see most often is a teen who runs away from home and meet people who introduces them to a trafficker or to a life where they might be exploited. Our young person may meet someone online, but sometimes may meet a person on mind a bit trafficker who promises them. Everything in the world, and then exploit them through trafficking. So really there's just any vulnerability that can be used against that you trafficker will do it. While that sounds like parents nightmare.

So is there a most important thing or things that you can advise parents that they can do to protect their children from being at risk. Absolutely I would say the first thing parents can do is educate themselves on what trafficking really looks like and how it really happened. Parents are mostly concerned about their children being kidnapped and we rarely see that we see children born targeted online in schools by other use and in their neighborhood. And so when parents understand how trafficking happened and they can have educated conversations with their children about what the children can be looking for what children be aware of telling kids just to watch out for strangers is not the answer, but one of the other thing parents really I really encourage parents to do it been vigilant in monitoring your child online behavior think that is where many of the children use. I work with connect with others who intend to harm them. So many bright spots. I know back in May over 160 missing children were rescued safely was a joint operation between local and federal law enforcement agencies was was a bright spot and how can we repeat that operation was the first time in operation like that had been conducted in Charlotte, though. Kudos to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department for taking that initiative missing children in that statistic include children who have run away. Not all of those recovered youth are victims of human trafficking so that the good thing there were some, but many of the kids who had run away you know Windows children are identified, they could be provided services to address challenges within the family that might have contributed running away the one of the great things about the population is the fact that you identify children and families who might need support and then you can offload at the great point is that these operation provide a way for us to really surround that family if they are interested in.

And again, and not all of the youth were victims of human trafficking. There were there were some but I do see most of these I work with who are victims of human trafficking have a history of running away.

So I would say that what that operation highlights is the need for targeted runaway prevention and intervention effort for just about out of time for this week before we go. Shauna Pagano where our listeners go to learn more about Pat's place on baking though our website which is Placed all of our information. Our contact information is there as well as a lot of training opportunities that we offer for anyone in the community interested in hearing more about child abuse or human trafficking.

Shauna Pagano, thank you so much for your good work and for being with us on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and pointed to them again next week to listen to the show online and to learn more about into families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across been through a lot of good or website it into family.award that's into Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family

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