GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Leaders and lawmakers are vowing to fight human trafficking in the Upstate.
An awareness symposium, Friday, featured Congressman Trey Gowdy and highlighted the warning signs of the growing issue.
There’s a deep misconception about human trafficking, according to Congressman Gowdy, with many believing it doesn’t or can’t happen here. The latest statistics prove otherwise, forcing a hard look at what we are doing to stop it.
“There are certain things that are just inalienable…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s hard to think of a crime that impeaches those three concepts more than human trafficking,” said Gowdy.
Yet, every day many victims suffer silently, said Gowdy, forced into labor or sex acts they cannot escape.
“It’s such an insidious crime, even if the numbers weren’t going up, we’d still want to eradicate it,” said Gowdy.
Speaking to the room of Upstate leaders and law enforcement, Gowdy pointed out a 100% increase in human trafficking in the last decade.
“I think it is really going up because of the money involved and just the human condition not improving that much, but I also think we’re doing a better job of identifying it and, for that, we deserve credit,” said Gowdy.
Bon Secours St Francis – the host of the awareness symposium – told 7 News that their standalone clinics and even pharmacies have seen an increasing number of potential victims.
In order to save them, we have to know the signs.
“People who you don’t think have the freedom of movement, that don’t have the ability to leave their current job, that aren’t in possession of their legal documents, if they are here pursuant to a visa,” explained.
Gowdy said change must happen at the congressional level, especially with advertising and social media sites that host predators.
“Think of the modeling websites that offer girls Hollywood careers, then they get here and it’s the antithesis of that. There needs to be an obligation for the advertisers,” said Gowdy.
Most of all, Gowdy said victims must know they will be safe if they speak out.
“You are going to be protected, that regardless of your status in this country,” said Gowdy.
If you or someone you know encounters a person you believe is being trafficked, you are urged to call your local law enforcement.