NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Human trafficking is back in the spotlight after a recent study from advocacy group Polaris showed a 35 percent increase in reports in the U.S. in the past year.
“Human trafficking happens right here,” said Linda Royster, the director of the Anchor House, which, once it opens, will be the only safe house in the country for male victims of human trafficking. “We don’t have to think about foreign nations.”
North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states for the number of human trafficking cases.
In 2016, the number of reported cases increased by 39 percent. However, experts said that actually could be a good thing.
“It does not necessarily equate to more cases necessarily,” said Royster. “It means that people are more aware.”
That awareness comes from more people shining light on the crime as well as services for those affected by human trafficking.
“It’s critical to have it and to have it here,” Royster said.
The Anchor House is set to open in just a few months.
Royster said it is “where you get to learn what it is to receive love and give love in a way that is life giving, and not in a way that leads to abuse.”
According to Polaris, it is services like the Anchor House that help survivors know they’re not alone.
In the last year, there’s been a 24 percent increase in the number of people reaching out for help.
“North Carolina has taken a pretty strong stance against human trafficking,” said Shane Guthrie, a detective with Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
Guthrie said now, more than ever, law enforcement agencies are working on how to help victims of human trafficking.
“We would facilitate getting them into those safe houses and getting them into programs — getting them the assistance they need to get out of this forever,” Guthrie said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking you can reach out to law enforcement or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.