Imagine your first summer job that you got at 15 to help pay for gas money. It was pretty close to home, your parents knew your boss from school, and you worked hard. Now imagine you weren’t getting paid, that your boss was withholding your wages, and that you couldn’t speak to your family. Imagine that if you didn’t work fast enough, you were beaten. Imagine that your boss won’t let you quit, and that even if you could, you would have nowhere to go.
From age 12 to 17, John Christopher Smith was living the kind of cruelty that we can only imagine. Forced to work over 100 hours a week in a restaurant in Conway, South Carolina, Smith endured threats of violence, abuse, and isolation from his captor. Even though he wanted to leave, Smith felt that he had nowhere to go.
This is the sad reality for many victims of human trafficking— they don’t know where to go once they escape. Labor trafficking, unlike sex trafficking, affects women and men fairly equally in South Carolina, and in the United States. According to research from Mercyhurst University, 5 out of 1000 adults in the world is a victim of labor trafficking, and 4 out of 1000 children. But even with numbers like these, labor trafficking is still not as highly publicized or exposed as sex trafficking is. In South Carolina, this low-level of awareness affects everything from the shelters to victims having knowledge that help and resources are out there for them.
Labor trafficking, unlike sex trafficking, affects women and men fairly equally in South Carolina, and in the United States
We must do better. And according to research done at Mercyhurst University, we can.
It seems that some Regional Task Force Response teams in South Carolina struggle due to the fact that communication and collaboration is a major challenge for any large group looking to accomplish a lot of extremely important work. Mending the disconnect can help to form an even more powerful force against human trafficking not only in South Carolina, but in the world. For any organization to be successful, it needs funding, and this is true for Task Force Response teams that combat human trafficking on a daily basis. We can help by rallying support for these teams that do such amazing, important, and challenging work.
While these changes seem small, they can make a world of difference for the survivors, like John Christopher Smith, and thousands of others like him.
Written by Julia Lesko