GREENVILLE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office recently released their annual report on the state’s efforts to combat the issue.
The report showed a major increase in trafficking victims across our state, with one Upstate county seeing some of the most cases.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, there was a 360% increase in human trafficking victims in South Carolina, and Greenville County has the second-highest rate in the state for the crime.
“We live in a culture that glamorizes sex and is okay with purchasing sex,” Zaina Greene said.
When it comes to human trafficking, Zaina Greene has seen her fair share.
“We’ve been able to help 275 women through our intervention and restoration programs,” she said.
Greene works for Switch–a non-profit in Greenville that’s mission is to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Upstate.
She wears blue in her hair to raise awareness.
“It is a growing issue, but I also think that it has been happening the whole time,” Greene said.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office just released new numbers of human trafficking cases across our state, which have more than tripled since last year, and right behind Horry County, Greenville County has the most cases.
Greene told 7 News she’s not surprised by these findings.
“I think Greenville is a growing area,” she said. “We are on the I-85 corridor. Obviously, we know Atlanta is the number one city in the country for human trafficking. Charlotte is in the top ten.”
The sad truth, Greene said, is that the report from the Attorney General’s Office only scratches the surface of this epidemic.
“We would see a lot more if we had more resources to help,” she said.
That’s why Greene is calling on the community to look for red flags. But she said traffickers can sometimes be hard to identify.
“We’re not looking, necessarily, for the creepy guy at Walmart or the person following you at Target,” she said. “A lot of times, these are people we’ve chosen to be in a relationship with. Someone who may, at first, appear to be a safe person or maybe someone who has recruited someone on a vulnerability they have. Usually, they’re people who are actually trying to get to know you and build trust with you first.”
And when it comes to spotting a victim, there are a few key things Greene said to be on the lookout for.
“People who are in relationships that might seem unhealthy, or even drug addiction habits that start, or isolation, or being up all night after working and we don’t know why, or income that we don’t understand,” she said.
Greene said the most important reason we need to pay attention, and report something if we see it, is because the victims likely won’t.
“Often, they’re not going to recognize they’re in a trafficking situation,” she said. “They can get out. They deserve better and there are people who want to help.”
There is a national hotline for victims of human trafficking. That number is 1-888-373-7888.
Click here to see South Carolina’s 2019 annual Human Trafficking report.