Finding Passion at Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now

Internship. A feared word by some undergraduates and recent graduates as well. I myself have felt anxiety and so have my classmates at the idea of countless hours of work that may or may not benefit us in the future. However, my experience as an intern with Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now has been different, it has been helpful not just to my future career but also to me as a person.

So who am I? My name is Margaret Morris, a senior at East Carolina University with a double concentration in Public Relations and Media Studies. Graduating in the fall of 2014, I decided that this spring I would have to take the plunge into the internship world of free labor and nervously anticipate what reward I would receive for my time and effort.

Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now was not my first choice but the opportunity fell into place at the right time during the fall semester of 2013. So with an eager and anxious outlook I set out to complete my internship. I was to be the new Public Relations Assistant at ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now.

ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now is a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to creating a community that actively works toward abolishing human trafficking locally and globally. Based out of Farmville, NC ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now is relentless in providing education to the general public regarding human trafficking, encouragement to legislators and law enforcement to help fight human trafficking, collaborating with other anti-trafficking and victim-assistance efforts, and expanding the local markets for Fair Trade merchandise.

I can say all of the above with ease now, and explain everything in detail, but at first things were different. Looking back I was uneducated regarding human trafficking and unprepared for the stories and testimonies that exist. Human trafficking is a widespread problem that is happening all around the world and in North Carolina.

On the first day of my internship Pam Strickland, founder of ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, sat me down in her office, which was piled high with news articles and hand outs, to show me stories about labor and sex trafficking around the world, across the United States, and in North Carolina.

 I was emotionally and mentally exhausted during my first couple weeks of internship. The stories of women, men, girls and boys being forced into labor and sex trafficking was something I did not know how to handle but as time went on things changed. I developed a passion and desire to do what I could to educate others about human trafficking, understanding that was a way I could help make a difference.

As a result, through my daily duties at my internship, which include press releases and social media management, I see new opportunities to tell others about what they can do to fight human trafficking. This internship has given me a cause and a reason to work. To know that what I am doing might one day touch a person’s life in a big way is inspiring.

Of course I might be doing that through one blog post, tweet, Facebook status, or press release at a time but I still find it rewarding. Creating awareness is something I can do despite my college life of 19 credit hours and another internship.

Yes, some of you would agree that I’m crazy. Especially knowing that I decided to take on not only one but two internships in the same semester. But I have come to look at the word internship with a whole different meaning. My internship with ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now has given me a cause to fight for and a good feeling when I finish the day. My internship is almost finished now and they are looking for a replacement, so how about you? Are you willing to give your time over to help fight for a good cause? Or does the word internship still make you nervous?

– Margaret Morris, Intern and Federal Work Study Student for Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now 

Advertisements

Human Trafficking and High School

When I first got asked to speak to youth groups on Human Trafficking, I didn’t think it was going to be something I liked. For a second, I reflected on my high school days and remembered how I would act when we had guest speakers come to our classes. I was always that student that would spend the whole time day dreaming, sneaking texts or avoiding eye contact so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions.

I was scared to speak because I thought I was going to face a room full of kids who were just like me. However, I was up for the challenge a figured the best way to get through the youth is by the youth. I always felt like I’ve experienced things my life that other people would benefit from but I never had a way to connect to them. Thanks to my internship I found my connection and was ready to take advantage of it.

During my internship I learned a lot of things about sex trafficking that made me realize how vulnerable my age group was because of how involved we are with social media. When I made my presentation I kept it mind how life was for me in high school and tried to break down what human trafficking was. So far I’ve talked to two youth groups and it’s been an exciting journey. It’s surreal to be 21 and looking into the faces of high school and middle school students. It’s also cool to tell them stories and see their faces, once they realize even though we’re different ages I can relate to what they say and vice versa. 

– Erin Price, Intern for Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now

Playground, A Documentary on Human Trafficking in America

Playground, written and directed by Libby Spears, reveals that human trafficking is as much a problem in the United States as it is globally. I think that it is easy for us as American citizens to believe that we live in a perfect country, and that human trafficking of men, women and children only happens in other countries. Why would we think any different since all of our media outlets from movies, music, news, and internet tell us so.

 

However, after watching this documentary I was made aware that in reality U.S. citizens account for 25% of child sex tourists world wide, and that the number one destination for a U.S. citizen who is seeking sex with a child is America. The statistics presented in this documentary are truly shocking:

 

  • 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked
  • There are over 600,000 sex offenders registered in our FBI database
  • 5,930,615 pornographic pictures of children online have been reported yet only 874 children have been identified and reported
  • Before 2001 pimping a child in Georgia was only a $50 misdemeanor charge
  • Atlanta is ranked #13 for child sex tourism in the world

 

These statistics clearly reveal how the extent to which sex trafficking is a problem in the United States, and in particular child sex trafficking. Child sex trafficking is organized crime that is rapidly growing both in locally and globally because pimps and customers view prostitution to be a victimless crime. Interviews done with sex-offenders and pimps reveal that they believe that they are actually helping the girls they prostitute as well as the economy.

 

Organized crime groups find sex trafficking much more appealing than drugs or weapons because there is high revenue to be made in this business but very low cost. Children are easily accessible, easily manipulated and there is virtually no risk. The legal systems that we have put in place do not adequately protect victims, and now with the Internet it is becoming even more difficult to track these children and save them. The Internet has given pimps another means of recruiting and exploiting these victims.

 

It is easy to think that the victims of these crimes must be children with low education and socioeconomic classes, but that is not the case. There is no profile for a victim of this crime anymore. In the documentary they discussed several case studies of girls who have been trafficked each were from a variety of backgrounds. Some were from nice, caring families while others were in and out of the foster care system.

 

I think that it is of vital importance that we change the culture around sex that has been established in America in order to actively fight against child sex trafficking. There is a growing number of women who view their sexuality as their greatest asset and not their intellect or personality. When young girls are exposed to this mentality through magazines, movies, and music they are given the wrong impression regarding sex. All around us through television ads and billboards sex is glamorized in a way that does not show people the path of how to sexually respect one another. It is important that we can have open and mature conversations regarding sex in order to inform and protect ourselves from the manipulative antics of pimps.

 

After watching Playground I am not only shocked by the prevalence of child sex trafficking in the United States but I am also empowered to take a stand and do what I can to help remedy this problem. I think that the first step of this process is to educate myself on all the issues surrounding human trafficking and I look forward to writing more blogs soon!

 

Mansi Trivedi, Intern at ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now