Human trafficking seminar to be held at Pike Regional CAC

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Human trafficking may seem like something that happens in other countries or places far from Alabama, but that’s not the case.

Camille Downing, Pike Regional Child Advocacy Center director, said the human trafficking threat is closer to home than one might expect.

“Right now, I don’t know of an incident here in Pike County but it’s coming,” she said. “I would not be surprised to see human trafficking here within a year or so. It’s happening in Alabama and it’s happening close to home.”

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Downing cited a case of human trafficking in Butler County involving a mother and her 14-year-old daughter.

“We can’t pretend it’s not happening because it is,” she said. “The growing threat of human trafficking was brought to my attention a couple of months ago at a meeting in Montgomery. I realized then the need to get information out to the public about this threat and to do it soon.”

The Pike Regional Child Advocacy/Family Resource Center will join Safe Harbor in hosting “Alabama’s Human Trafficking Threat” on Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street in Greenville.

“We invite counselors, teachers, pastors, medical professionals, government officials – anyone who has the welfare of children and women at heart,” Downing said.

A facilitator for the event will be Tajuan McCarty, who is the founder and executive director of The WellHouse in Birmingham. The WellHouse is a non-profit, faith-based and Christ-centered agency dedicated to rescuing women and girls from sexual exploitation/human trafficking.

“At age 15, Tajuan McCarty became a victim of sexual exploitation and she understands the victims’ situations too well,” Downing said. “Because of her experiences, she is a passionate advocate for victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

McCarty was recognized as one of the Top 20 Women Who Make a Difference in Birmingham in 2013 due to her efforts to fight human trafficking.

“She is an inspiring speaker who puts a face on human trafficking,” Downing said. “Many women and children are going through situations similar to Tajuan’s — situations we don’t know about or hear about but situations that we need to do something about.”

Downing said there is a big need to change Alabama’s sex trafficking laws before the threat becomes reality and escalates.

“Teresa Collier will also be a facilitator for the program and she will discuss what can be done in cases like Tajuan’s,” Downing said. “When Tajuan was seeking help, law enforcement didn’t know what to do with a teenage prostitute.

“Teresa Collier will outline signs and indications to watch for when a person is being trafficked, how to respond and what to do to get that person out of that situation. Human trafficking is a threat and it’s one that many of us haven’t seen coming. But we need to be aware that it’s happening and to know what we can do to assist victims and how to keep trafficking out of our communities.”

The “Alabama’s Human Trafficking Threat” seminar will be from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 in Greenville. The registration fee is $30 and includes lunch.

Registration forms are available at the Pike Regional CAC at 118 West Orange Street in Troy. For more information, call Camille Downing at 334-670-0487.