BLUFFTON, S.C. – The F.B.I. is currently investigating whether two missing teenage girls who were found this weekend in Jasper County are part of a human trafficking operation.
Fresh Start Healing Heart is a local non-profit dedicated to education and eradicating human trafficking in all its forms. WSAV spoke to a local representative who explained why the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry are hot beds for trafficking.
“It can be military or war, tourism, poverty, corridor or highways and ports, major ports, so you tell me what ones do we have? We have them all,” the representative said. She asked WSAV not to use her name for safety concerns.
Freedom from modern day slavery can be a challenge, especially as the representative state many victims are not bound by shackles, but bound by fear. The representative says many captors threaten to harm things or people that hold values to trafficking victims.
“It could be a child, it could be a family member. Could be a pet,” she said. She said it can take local authorities and investigations longer to deem the case part of a larger human trafficking ring because of the emotional toll it can have on the victim. While victims come from all backgrounds and ages, many traffickers will “boyfriend” their victims to make it seem like they are really in love with or care about their victims. This can complicate and prolong the investigation to provide hard evidence of human trafficking.
Apart from education, Fresh Start Healing Heart also provides safe shelter and temporary housing for trafficking victims. The sheltering take place mainly in the form of foster homes. If you would like your home to become a foster home, click here.