MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WBTW) – An anti-human trafficking group from the Wilmington, North Carolina, area is trying to help out on the other side of the Carolina border.
Since 2016, Allysa McKenzie says her group called Stand Against Trafficking USA, also known as StATUSA, has helped more than 200 women in three North Carolina counties escape what she calls a cycle of human trafficking.
“These women who are truly victims/survivors are being treated like criminals and they have no future because they’re not getting the help that they want,” said McKenzie, who’s the founder and executive director of StATUSA. “It needs to be a reformation where we’re building these women up.”
StATUSA educates law enforcement, medical and other professionals about their roles in helping human trafficking victims. McKenzie hosted a training workshop at the Belin Memorial United Methodist Church on Wednesday.
McKenzie says it’s important to intervene as soon as possible, since victims may feel they have no choice but to return to their traffickers. Her first response method helps victims with medical, mental and addiction treatments within the first three months.
The help doesn’t stop there.
“Then, she would go into a 10-month re-entry program that actually helps her to know how to live a life outside of the bad life,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie says she wants to bring the program to Horry County’s jail. Angela Brown, who’s the victim services director for the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, says she went to the presentation to learn how human trafficking victims can get more help.
Brown says the charges some victims face hurt their chances of getting that help.
“A lot of times they’re charged with prostitution because they don’t give us information that they’re being trafficked because they’re scared of the people that they’re working for,” said Brown.
McKenzie says the best way to stop human trafficking is to help anyone at risk, especially younger people.
“These children are becoming just the next sex trafficking survivors,” she said. “If we don’t stop it now, what is it going to look like?”
According to South Carolina’s 2018 human trafficking report, Horry County was second in the state in reported cases behind Richland County.
You can visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline website if you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking. You can also call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 for help. The Polaris Project also helps victims and advocates fight human trafficking.
You can also find out about resources available in South Carolina by visiting the state human trafficking task force’s website.