The Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force and Karma Coffee teamed up Monday to bring awareness to the issue on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
“Our goal is to raise awareness every day,” said Kathy Wilson, chair of the task force. On Monday, a table was set up in Karma’s with information about the issue.
Wilson said they use multiple opportunities throughout the year to raise awareness and educate people about the issue and signs to look for.
“We’re starting to make a difference,” said Wilson. “I think we’ve made good progress in just opening people’s eyes. We still have a long way to go. People still think it’s like Hollywood, and it doesn’t happen here, so the perception needs to change, but I think we’ve made good progress.”
Last year, Wilson completed a long-time goal of creating a public service announcement video on the issue, thanks to the help of Wallace State Community College.
“I’m super proud of that,” she said. “That was all done using local resources and that’s a community trying to make a difference.”
In fact, she said, human trafficking task forces in other parts of the state look to Cullman with envy. Cullman County and its municipalities each year pass resolutions declaring January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“That’s huge, to get that many municipalities in one area to sign the proclamation,” she said. “Our support is incredible.”
While COVID-19 slowed down the task forces’ awareness campaign last year, it also slowed down human trafficking activity, said Wilson. “Covid has affected everything,” she said.
Cullman’s location along an interstate makes it more likely that victims are being trafficked through the county, but human trafficking is also taking place within the county, she said. Sometimes the perpetrators are family members or individuals well-known to the victims.
Wilson said if there is one thing she wants people to know about human trafficking it’s that “it’s very real and it’s here. Please education yourself and know the signs.”
How to Identify Human Trafficking Victims:
- Appear to be under someone else’s control at all times
- Chronic runway or homeless youth
- May have significant gaps in schooling
- All or most contacts with family and friends are controlled
- Live with multiple people in a very cramped space
- Show evidence or signs of abuse, such as physical injuries, scars, cuts, bruises or burns
- May show signs of drug abuse - victims are often given drugs to keep them dependent
- May have tattoos of “Daddy,” “$,” bar codes or a man’s name
- Have little to no privacy or are rarely home
- Are not in control of their own travel or identification documents