Slavery is alive and well in South Carolina. If that got your attention, then trust me, it got mine as well. Human trafficking is a part of our every day lives. Last year, there were 163 phone calls to the hotline from South Carolina. Amazing, don’t you agree? Because we have major interstates, private boating, and private planes, human trafficking can exist here within our borders quite easily. Additionally, we have limited resources for the counties in our state where the most activity takes place. Specifically, the southern part of GreenvilleCounty is a hotbed of activity. Without more deputies and laws that allow them the power to arrest the criminals, we will continue to struggle with this hidden crime.
Do you know what Human Trafficking is? If not, you may want to do some research. You can start with http://www.polarisproject.org. When most Americans hear of this brutal and destructive crime, we think “immigrants” and other countries. Over 100,000 Americans are forced into Human Trafficking each year. Staggering. What makes it more unbelievable is that it could be the woman working next to you, or the girl who rides the bus beside of you, or a friend of your child. This unspeakable crime exists through threats, coercion, and blackmail. Along with a healthy dose of brainwashing.
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, I went with a group of women toColumbiafor my first ever lobbying experience. I was curious. This was an historic day. One woman spearheaded this event – Betty Houbion inCharleston. Together with Patricia Ravenhurst – an attorney who specializes in victim abuse – they put together this lobbying effort. Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke passionately about the cause. Representative Nelson Hardwick and Senator Hutto stood up against this horrendous crime. Senator Tom Davis has committed to helping get this bill through the statehouse. Before we left that day, the bill had received a number. We did not expect that. Those who had initiated this event were stunned. With absolute delight.
This is what we are after. At this point in time,South Carolina does not have a bill outlawing Human Trafficking. All we can respond to is the federal law. We need more. For a state who claims that their rights often champion the federal laws, we need to ensure that all law enforcers know what they can do to punish the law breakers. We need South Carolina laws along with awareness and education. A lot to ask, but less than what is needed.
Thanks to all who have worked to get this bill into our house and now through it. We must stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is not a choice – it is a crime.