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Crossroads in abuse crimes prompts training session

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Human trafficking and domestic violence training was combined this year due to the increase in domestic violence cases across the county and statewide.

More than 60 people attended the free training session for the intersection of domestic violence and human trafficking.

The session was last Wednesday at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex.

The Person County Human Trafficking Coalition and Person County’s Guardian ad Litem program sponsored the free training session.

The issue of human trafficking and the relationship of domestic violence was something concerning to committee members.

“With DSS being involved, Freedom House Recovery Center and Safe Haven of Person County, they felt it was needed to bring to people’s attention because domestic violence was on the rise in Person County,” said Melissa Thomas, the chair of the Person County Human Trafficking Committee.

In Person County, domestic violence cases have gone up by nearly 100, according to Thomas.

According to the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, there were 258 reported human trafficking investigations statewide last year.

According to North Carolina Administration, human trafficking includes sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

They also define it as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”

One of the signs of human trafficking includes domestic violence.

“With human trafficking, usually with whomever has been taken, they have normally experienced abuse. If it is an immigrant, they can be threatened by someone like their landlord and they are not able to leave because they are afraid of being deported. It is a cycle,” said Thomas.

Not every reported domestic violence case is related to human trafficking.

There are labor disputes, prostitution, assault and shoplifting.

“One that tends to stand out to most people is shoplifting. When a victim is trafficked their pimp takes all their belongings. When the victim has a chance to be at a store they shoplift items for themselves. Items could be hygiene products, food, or other items,” said Roxboro Chief of Police David Hess.

People were able to learn a lot of information and were alerted about how a community like Person County can deal with human trafficking.

“It is making the community aware that Family Services, Person County Social Services Department, community services, Freedom House and all of the organizations that work with the abused and neglected, male or female, that human trafficking does occur in a county as small as ours,” said Thomas.

Participants were also able to learn some of the signs a victim is being trafficked.

Some of those signs include isolation or withdrawing from people, bruising indicative of abuse, substance abuse and indications that a person never leaves the home.

The police department and the sheriff’s office have not investigated any incidents of human trafficking, according to Hess.

“Everyone has a responsibility to know the signs of human trafficking because anyone can be trafficked. When something doesn’t look right it usually isn’t. The responsibility to know the signs of human trafficking is even greater than just knowledge. If you see signs of trafficking, see something say something, by reporting it to authorities,” said Hess.

For those who were not able to attend the free training, free resources are also provided through the International Association of Chiefs of Police, US Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission.

National resources include National Human Trafficking Center at 1-888-373-7888 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

“We bring different agencies within the county including emergency services and police services (together) to talk about issues pertaining to human trafficking and what our committee can do to inform the community,” said Thomas.

The Person County Human Trafficking Coalition is made up of a team of volunteers from Person County.

Usually the volunteers are agency representatives like police, sheriff, mental health, school, DSS, GAL and child and family advocates.

The coalition meets to help keep the community informed, regarding the education and resources needed if and when the county has human trafficking cases.

Their sub committee, Person County Human Trafficking, operates in a similar manner.

“The local committee is vital for our community because they help provide training, networking, and resources for local first responders and various advocacy partners to identify and combat human trafficking,” said Hess.

Anyone interested in joining Person County Human Trafficking Committee is asked to contact Thomas at mitze.thomas3@gmail.com.

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