Human trafficking affects millions of people worldwide, but it’s something that most people don’t feel comfortable talking about.
Members of USC’s International Justice Mission, an organization that educates people about what it calls modern-day slavery, wants to end that silence. This week,IJM president Megan Rigabar and other members are asking students simple questions. IJM members are on Greene Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The first — “Do you want to help fight against human trafficking?” — was quickly followed by a second — “Do you know what human trafficking is?”
Despite 25 distinct types of human trafficking present around the world, Rigabar said most people have no idea about the scope of the problem.
“The biggest misconception I see,” Rigabar said, “is that human trafficking is sex trafficking of minors. It’s a very narrow definition that we’ve built.”
However, men, women, boys and girls are all at risk to be trafficked. And it’s not just for sex. People can be trafficked for labor as well.
But IJM isn’t only trying to educate students about what human trafficking is. They want to teach people how to help as well.
“The biggest thing is knowing what to look out for and calling the national human trafficking hotline,” Rigabar said. “Everyone should have that number in their phone.”
IJM gave students cards with 25 potential signs of a trafficking victim. Some of the most common ones are that victims are never allowed to be alone, they don’t make eye contact and they claim not to know the name or address of the place they are staying.
But there’s one obvious red flag that Rigabar says is key.
“The biggest thing is that if someone doesn’t have the freedom to move and do as they choose, something is wrong,” she said.
More than half of the pending human trafficking cases in South Carolina are in Richland County, something that came as a surprise to many USC students.
“You hear a lot about it in terms of like what goes on elsewhere in the world, but I had no idea it was such a problem in the United States and in Richland County and apparently where I live,” freshman Morgan McGee said.
Throughout the week, IJM members continued to stress the important of seeing something and saying something, which starts with knowing what to look for. With 80 percent of reported cases in South Carolina coming from hotline tips, Rigabar says it’s important for everyone to be educated on all the potential signs.
“When I first learned about human trafficking, it struck me as an issue that no one was talking about, and effects so many people,” said IJM member Nate Duvall, “not just in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa, but right here in South Carolina and right here in Columbia.”
If you or someone you know is a potential victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.