Human trafficking on the rise in South Carolina

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson recently reported that human trafficking in the state has increased. In the annual report of the task force he chairs, he stated, “In 2022, South Carolina saw a substantial increase in labor trafficking cases, while the number of children identified as sex trafficking victims continued to rise as well. The crime remains varied and multifaceted. However, we know that those who commit these offenses often target the most vulnerable amongst us.”

The most vulnerable among us is a phrase that should capture the hearts and minds of South Carolina Baptists. Who are the victims of human trafficking? The children, immigrants, and poor who live among us are the most vulnerable. Psalm 82:3-4 says, “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Human trafficking (or slavery) is the face of evil, and yet it is increasing. What can be done to stop, or at least slow down, this wicked tragedy? Wilson was encouraged by the fact that there was a 128 percent increase in the use of the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888). The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) reported 416 cases of trafficking, 400 of that number being minors. Younger people are prime targets for traffickers.

Four counties in the state led in the number of trafficking situations. Each had double digits: Greenville County, 18; Charleston County, 14; Richland County, 13; and Horry County, 12.

Wilson stated, “There is usually a relationship between the trafficking victim and the trafficker. Human trafficking happens on ‘Main Street’ here in South Carolina.”

The Tim Tebow Foundation is an active organization serving the victims of human trafficking.

Tebow said, “Our mission statement is to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. Just in the last few days, there have been many rescues in many countries, including here.” His foundation is building a protection center in Thailand to serve 40 girls at a time. “Our job is simply to provide as much protection, kindness, and love as possible — and point them to the truth. They’re worth it,” Tebow said.

Goya Foods has created “Goya Cares” as a tool to bring awareness to the mental health and trafficking of children. They state that “every 60 seconds, two children are trafficked” somewhere in the world. Thus far, Goya Cares has reached 244,954,718 globally and has a goal of reaching a quarter of a billion in 2023.

Goya Foods is a large food producer and has included a QR code on cans of beans that can be scanned to learn about their anti-trafficking program. Bob Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods, said, “We have to remove this destruction — it’s terrible.”

There are other organizations working to alleviate the suffering and provide protection for victims as well as report people they discover who are involved in human trafficking. “Erase” is a coalition dedicated to abolishing child trafficking. Their motto: “We can defeat child trafficking with your help.”

Human trafficking has several faces. It occurs when a human being is sold, traded, transferred, kidnapped, or taken in some other way for money, sex, labor, or other purposes.

The people who are trafficked are our most vulnerable, and they need help. What can we do? Observe, record, and collect facts when you sense a trafficking situation is taking place. Then report it to the local authorities and call the National Hotline. The church can get involved by supporting ministries that are attacking this evil. We all can pray.