Hundreds attend human trafficking symposium held by Bon Secours St. Francis

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Bon Secours St. Francis Health System hosted their third annual Human Trafficking Symposium Friday, promoting a “community response to an international crisis.”

Prominent activists and educational speakers from all over the country flew in for the event, telling the hundreds of people in attendance the stories of those who do not always have a voice.

“There’s maybe not a lock on the door, a physical lock, but there is through the coercion and the threats the violence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Sherard explained. “They are in essence, trapped.”

Sherard, who has notable experience prosecuting human trafficking cases, was also part of a panel discussion.

“If someone gets arrested for prostitution, it may not be by their choice. It’s really taking time to understand the crime, and appreciate that the victims are out there, and they don’t necessarily present themselves as victims,” she said.

Other guests, including Sister Anne Victory, flew in to talk about their activism.

Sister Victory, originally from Ohio, said much of her work focused on pressuring hotels to step up and train their staff for how to handle possible identification and interactions with victims.

“We’ve been working with them to figure out how they would want to train their staff, because human trafficking is not good for their business, really, and hotels are being sued across the country,” she told 7 News. “So let’s figure it out together, what would be most helpful.”

According to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, Greenville County is a top five county in the state for human trafficking.

Beth Messick, founder of the non-profit Jasmine Road, often works to help those victims and was also in attendance Friday.

“One of the women that I have worked with, she was in the office and she shared a story of being sold on the streets of Greenville for crack cocaine, and she was nine years old,” Messick said.

Messick added that having a larger discussion with such a supportive group of professionals, is invaluable.

“We all have a role to play, and we can come together and help these women to heal, and lead productive lives in our community,” Messick said.

Bon Secours also launched their new training video at the symposium, which teaches health care workers how to identify and help potential victims that come through the hospitals.

If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the national human trafficking hotline at (888) 373-7888.

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