AWAY Center raises awareness ahead of Human Trafficking Day
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - The AWAY Center, formerly known as the Women’s Resource Center, is shining a light on an issue often hidden in darkness.
With Human Trafficking Awareness Day set for Tuesday, their experts on the issue discussed what it is, how it happens, and perhaps most importantly, what can be done to stop it.
According to expert Tawanna Warner, human trafficking often occurs when perpetrators think no one is looking. She said some of the common sites include truck stops, Myrtle Beach, and even the Super Bowl, which is one of the biggest days for human trafficking each year.
“Whatever that person is not getting at home, they’ll try and get that for them. They’ll even offer a car and let the person drive the car off,” she explained.
Warner said those taken can be sold into the sex trade or used for free labor. While she said people may not hear about it happening often, it does occur in this area, especially along the major interstates.
She said the cases are often prosecuted under a different name. “They often charge it under abuse and neglect. But if they started charging it under human trafficking, that would help get the word out as well.”
While anyone can be pulled into the rings, advocate McKenzi Simpson said it is particularly prevalent among those who appear vulnerable.
“Such as runaways who are running around town. People may not be looking for them. If they disappear, people just assume they ran away when it reality they may have been trafficked.”
She said the advent of social media has presented new avenues for perpetrators to find, manipulate, the lure in potential victims.
“They could get to know these people and what they do day to day. Just having that control over them can make them scared for their lives.”
While trafficking can often happen across state borders and across multiple police jurisdictions, the Away Center can help those who are in danger or their family members get in touch with the proper authorities by calling 304-255-2559.
The AWAY Center is asking everyone to wear Blue on Tuesday to raise awareness over the issue.
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